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Priitttd in Grtat Britain 



Their Attitude to Toleration. 

With two Portraits. Cloth 
boards, 25s. net. 

The Times says : "A work not only of 
great erudition, but of profound insight 
into the character of the men with whom 
he deals." 

The Times Literary Supplement s 
" A fine piece of historical study. 
In the skilful treatment of the complex 
problems of character Dr. Murray shows 
himself a careful psychologist." 

The Tablet says : " A profound study of 
the two central figures of the Renaissance 
and Reformation period. . . . The book 
affords us a wonderful glimpse of the 
period, with its storm and welter of strong 
passions, which make our modern times 
seem so deplorably anaemic." 

London: S.P.C.K. 

First published 1925 







FIVE-AND-TWENTY centuries have passed since the greatest 
of all Greek historians, Thucydides, wrote : " People do not 
distinguish ; without a test they take things from one another : 
even on things of their own day, not dulled by time, Hellenes 
are apt to be all wrong. So little pains will most men take in 
search for truth: so much more readily they turn to what 
conies first/'* The Greek applied these mournful words to 
history. It is the purpose of this book to apply them to 
science. The scientist should be a man willing to listen 
to every suggestion, to every hypothesis, but should also be 
determined to be the slave of neither suggestion nor hypo- 
thesis. With an open mind, uninfluenced by preconceived 
ideas, he sets out on his quest for truth inspired by the desire 
of ascertaining what Virgil deemed the fortunate lot of him 
who found out the causes of events in the world of matter, 
just as the historian seeks the causes of events in the world 
of affairs. In " Gott und Welt " Goethe launched a 
magnificent ideal : 

Wide of world and broad in living, 
Long years' single-hearted striving, 
Ever seeking, fathoming ever, 
Rounding oft, concluding never, 
Oldest truth in fealty keeping, 
Newest truth in gladness greeting, 
Mind serene, and pure ambition: 
Make good faring on life's mission. t 

* iThucydides, i. 20 : ourwj draXatw^pos rots iro\\ois rj tfTrjffis TT}S 
KCU ^TTI rd ^roi/ia /naXXoi' rpbrovTai. 

+ Weite Welt und breites Leben, 
Langer Jahre redlich Streben, 
Stets geforscht und stets gegriindet, 
Nie geschlossen, oft geriindet, 
Aeltestes bewahrt mit Treue, 
Freundlich aufgefasstes Neue, 
Heitern Sinn, und reine Zwecke: 
Nun! man kommt wohl eine Strecke. 



Such a scientist is one of the greatest benefactors of the 
human race, and to him I pay my tribute of sincerest respect 
for his patient observation and his persistent inquiry. If, in 
addition to these gifts, he possesses insight and imagination 
raised to the highest degree, we are fortunate to meet with 
a Newton in the past or a Poincare in the present. The bio- 
graphy of a Faraday or a Pasteur is enough to show what 
years of labour a man will give when the love of knowledge 
and the joy of discovery take possession of him. The life 
devoted to the exploration of nature is one that commands 
my admiration increasingly, and no one is more conscious 
than myself of how many scientific men have aims and ideals 
as noble as any which stimulate human endeavour. 

Science, in the old sense, meant knowledge, and this know- 
ledge might wear many forms as well as that of the 
laboratory. Any investigator is such simply because he puts 
truth high above everything. Some scientists they are not 
the greatest seem to think that love of truth actuates a 
man in their ranks more than anyone else. If one reads such 
a tenth-rate book as J. W. Draper's History of the Conflict 
between Religion and Science or even such a book as A. D. 
White's History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in 
Christendom, one is conscious that both authors assume un- 
questioningly that the theologian is moved by prepossessions, 
whereas the man of science is moved by nothing else than 
the desire to ascertain the facts as they actually are. Would 
that it were so with all men of science ! It might have oc- 
curred to these authors that the history of science bears no 
testimony to the accuracy of their assumption, and indeed 
one main purpose in writing this book has been to prove that 
there are just as many preconceived notions in science as 
there are in theology. These pages have been written in the 
hope that scientists will read them in order to detect the 
presence of hypotheses that are inflicting grave injury on the 
progress of their several departments. In a sense my book 
forms an assault upon science, or, to put it more correctly, 
upon the preconceptions that lie at its base far more than 
most F.R.S.s are aware. Take the story told of Herbert 
Spencer. He replied to an argument with the words, " That 
can't be true, for otherwise my First Principles would have 
to be re-written and the edition is stereotyped." Is it true 


that much that passes under the name of science is also 
stereotyped ? 

In logic two blacks do not make a white, but in life 
they sometimes do. Convince a man that he is acting upon 
hypothesis, not upon ascertained truth, and he is your debtor. 
I have enough faith in the candour of men of science to 
think that if it is a big if it is possible to convince them 
that there are every whit as many prepossessions in their 
departments as there are in theology, we shall hear less of 
the warfare between science and theology. For a similar 
warfare is characteristic of EVERY form of human knowledge. 
There are schools of science in, say, biology just as there are 
such schools in mathematics; e.g. some mathematicians will 
not allow the use of quaternions in any form, while to others 
they are indispensable. Discoverers are not simply dis- 
coverers: fundamentally they share the aesthetic tempera- 
ment. The historian can only see truth, as it were, through 
the hundred facets of a cut diamond; and he sits patiently, 
mentally turning the diamond till he notes the gleam of which 
he is in search. Nor is the attitude of the scientist a whit 

I have confined my attention to the nineteenth century, and 
in the careers of the men investigated I stop my account of 
them ten years after they effect their chief contribution to 
their particular corner of the domain of knowledge.* Had I 
gone to, say, the eighteenth century and studied Newton's 
career, I could have made my account a thousandfold 
stronger. In order to be quite fair, I determined to concen- 
trate my attention on the nineteenth century. 

Another matter calls for comment. There are many 
biographies of scientists in English, but there are few in 
German and fewer in French. For this reason I have been 
compelled to pay more attention to England than to Germany 
or France, simply because I have not the material for Euro- 
pean scientists. In France there are, of course, the eloges of 
the French Academies. In Germany there are memoirs of 
Varnhagen von Ense and of Perthes; there are R. Haym's 
great biographies of Hegel, Wilhelm von Humboldt, and 
Herder; and there are Justi's Winckelmann and Dilthey's 
Schleiermacher. None of these, however, are really scien- 

* Cf . p. 307. 


tific in character. For that we have to fall back on the 
incomparable Reden which E. Du Bois Reymond and K. E. 
von Baer have bequeathed to us. 

References to the utterances of the scientists under dis- 
cussion are so desirable that in some cases I have employed 
a good many quotations. The following publishers 
generously allowed me to use extracts from books published 
by them, and I desire to thank them most cordially: E. 
Arnold & Co. (Lord Rayleigh, Life of Lord Rayleigh) ; the 
Clarendon Press (Sir R. J. Godlee, Life of Lord Lister, and 
L. Koenigsberger, Hermann von Helmholtz} ; Constable & 
Co. (O. Metchnikoff, Life of Elie Metchnikoff, and R. 
Vallery-Radot, Life of Pasteur) ; Longmans, Green & Co. 
(J. Tyndall, Faraday as a Discoverer) ; Macmillan & Co. 
(L. Huxley, Life and Letters of T. H. Huxley, T. H. 
Huxley, Darwiniana, and S. P. Thompson, Life of Lord 
Kelvin) ; John Murray (F. Darwin, Life and Letters of 
Charles Darwin, Mrs. Horner, Life of Sir Charles Lyell, 
and Sir Ronald Ross, Memoirs} ; the Council of the Royal 
Society (Lord Rayleigh's Presidential Address in 1907) ; 
and the S.P.C.K. (the Rev. R. H. Murray, Erasmus and 
Luther: their Attitude to Toleration). 

Nothing remains save to express my gratitude to those 
who have helped me in what has necessarily been a long 
task. I desire to give my sincere thanks to the following, 
who have made valuable suggestions : The Earl of Balfour, 
Sir W. F. Barrett, Mr. Havelock Ellis, Sir R. J. Godlee, 
Lord Rayleigh, and Hon. Bertrand Russell. Alas ! Sir W. F. 
Barrett and Sir R. J. Godlee, like some others, are beyond 
the reach of my acknowledgment. The Rev. Dr. Tennant 
most kindly went through the original book with me, and I 
owe much to his advice. Six other Cambridge Fellows were 
kind enough to give me the benefit of their accurate know- 
ledge. The reader of my publishers and the Rev. W. K. 
Lowther Clarke have bestowed the utmost pains upon my 
manuscript. The Master of Christ's College, Cambridge (Sir 
A. E. Shipley), and the Master of Trinity College, Cambridge 
(Sir J. J. Thomson), read through my proofs and made 


many helpful suggestions. I feel specially grateful to Sir 
Joseph Larmor for his searching criticism of my proofs. 
Sir Oliver Lodge aided me in numberless ways, and I thank 
him most cordially for all his assistance and for the Intro- 
duction he has been good enough to write for me. Last of 
all, my wife has given me constant encouragement and con- 
stant assistance. Indeed it is a genuine pleasure to me to 
thank the many friends who have given me both counsel and 






























INDEX ........ 427 


IT is not often that men of science are looked at with the 
eye of an historian, and their merits and demerits parcelled 
out with an impartial hand. I am not sure that the operation 
is altogether pleasant. We like to be thought devotees of 
truth uninfluenced by prejudice, as open-minded and serene 
students of nature, free from presuppositions and welcoming 
every fact that comes within our ken. Yet, in the past, 
history has testified against us, and posterity has found it 
needful to mingle some condemnation with its praise. It is 
unlikely that the present generation is immune. Obituary 
notices and biographies naturally and properly aim at em- 
phasising positive merits and are niggard of blame ; but our 
letters and contemporary utterances, some of which we 
should like to forget, stand ready to condemn us in the eyes 
of a future generation. For each generation, though doubt- 
less it has difficulties of its own, has been enlightened by the 
placid progress of knowledge, so that the strivings and 
jealousies and bigotries of the past seem perverse and 
difficult of comprehension. 

We may find it difficult to realise that quite similar 
prejudices and bigotries are not extinct to-day. We are not 
historians, and sometimes we seem incapable of learning 
from the past. When the errors of our predecessors are 
forced upon our notice we may lament them or be amused at 
them or may seek to excuse them, but that the same lamenta- 
tions and excuses may some day have to be made for us we 
can hardly think possible. Yet though our predecessors were 
doubtless as single-eyed for truth as we are, they stood 
forth as champions of scientific orthodoxy, they condemned 
heresies unheard even when supported by asserted facts, and 
they resisted novelties because they seemed incredible. Their 
patiently acquired knowledge had grown so great that if 



confronted with phenomena which were unpalatable or in- 
admissible, they felt certain that they could not be facts and 
might be safely rejected without examination. 

In the past we see the supporters of new doctrines, the 
detectors of unwelcome facts, coming forward apologetically, 
humbly presenting their credentials, and we see them im- 
mediately snuffed out or else browbeaten and ridiculed by 
the High Priests of Science. Surely that sort of thing cannot 
happen to-day ! 

The suggestion that there may be a branch of inquiry 
which even now has to run the gauntlet of fierce denial and 
unbending hostility, and yet may be accepted by posterity 
as a matter of course, is humiliating. Truth may be trusted 
to prevail in the long run, but meanwhile the run is long, 
and many shrewd blows may be received by the unfortunate 
custodian of new truth. In theology the persecution of the 
heretic has always been bitter, though a later age may 
canonise the martyr. The world is full of prejudices and 
presuppositions, and the birth of truth is seldom accomplished 
without the pains of parturition. 

Surely the world of science is free from prejudice and is 
ever ready to welcome truth ! So we try to think. But is it 
so ? Does history bear this out ? Are we in better case than 
our colleagues in any other department of human activity? 
The Author of this book, surveying the unparalleled develop- 
ment of scientific knowledge in the nineteenth century as 
a theme for historical inquiry, implicitly answers this 
question, and answers it in the negative. Keenly admiring 
the work of the pioneer, the Author finds that he had to 
encounter in every case a lamentable hostility, a serious 
opposition; and then he sadly recognises that when this same 
pioneer has at length been received and honoured and 
exalted, in too many cases the quondam sufferer metes out 
the same treatment to the pioneer of the next generation. 

Thus it can be claimed that science has no more open- 
mindedness than any other profession. It can also be urged 
that scientific method has no monopoly of the avenues of 
trulh. A vivifying hypothesis may dawn on the mind 
intuitively, aesthetically, and in other ways ; and verification 
may be forthcoming from common experience. 

A claim like these must be confronted with the history of 


scientific discovery and with the records of all experience. 
Few there are who can take a wide enough survey of human 
knowledge even to enter on the discussion ; but that is what 
the Author has attempted. The range of study exhibited 
in this book is remarkable. The Author must have been 
largely dependent on biographies and obituary notices, sup- 
plementing his own scientific knowledge. To extract from 
these rather sugary sources their essential essence can have 
been no easy task. An immense range of subjects is com- 
petently and ably dealt with, and the work of continental as 
well as of English-speaking discoverers is passed under 
review. The chapter on Helmholtz, too little known in this 
country, is specially useful, though even so the Author has 
hardly succeeded in the almost impossible task of conveying 
to the general reader an adequate conception of the exceeding 
brilliance and wide scope of the 1847 thesis of Helmholtz on 
the Conservation of Energy; still less is it possible to deal 
with that epoch-making paper on Vortex theory, which 
may be said to have initiated modern hydrodynamics. 
Mathematics, Biology, Geology, and Medicine are all 
included in the survey, and the chapter on forgotten scientists 
resuscitates the memory of many workers whose meritorious 
contributions were either rejected or but slightly appreciated 
by their contemporaries. 

On the whole it may be said, without any exaggeration, 
that the Author has succeeded in producing an eminently 
readable book, full of personal reminiscences and biographical 
details about the great men of science of the nineteenth 
century, with their mixed strength and weakness; a book 
also which is a serviceable storehouse of reference for the 
coming generation of students in all branches of science, to 
whom those stirring times and the personalities who enriched 
and vivified them are fast becoming little better than a 
tradition. Judiciously selected extracts and anecdotes make 
it often amusing as well as interesting, and it may be safely 
commended to a wide circle of readers. 




EDWARD JENNER (1749 1823) was born at Berkeley, 
Gloucestershire, of which place his father was vicar. His 
mother's name was Head, and her father had also been vicar 
of Berkeley. The celibacy of the clergy of the Church of 
Rome stands in need of defence. The marriage of the clergy 
of the Church of England stands in need of none, for the 
volumes of the Dictionary of National Biography attest how 
many men in the front rank have come from her rectories. 
On his father's death when he was five, the education of 
Edward Jenner fell into the hands of his eldest brother, 
Stephen. When eight years old he was sent to school at 
Wotton-under-Edge under a clergyman named Clissold. 
Next he was placed under the tuition of the Rev. Dr. Wash- 
bourn at Cirencester. There he acquired a respectable know- 
ledge of the classics, and he also acquired what was no less 
important some of those friends who bulked largely in his 
life. The boy quite commonly is not the father of the man. 
He was, however, in Jenner's case. Cirencester is a neigh- 
bourhood abounding in fossils, and the lad of nine collected 
them, as he also collected the nests of the dormouse. 

Jenner 's profession was to be medicine, and accordingly 
he was apprenticed to Daniel Ludlow of Sodbury, a surgeon 
of note. At the end of his apprenticeship he was fortunate 
enough in 1770 to become a resident pupil of John Hunter, 
who was to become the head of the surgical profession. As 
an investigator, as a stimulator of thought, and as an original 
thinker Hunter left an exceedingly deep impression on his 
contemporaries. With a profound ignorance of books he 
possessed an intimacy with facts. Hobbes was of the 
opinion that if he had read as much as other people, he would 


know as little as they, and this was an opinion that Hunter 
cordially shared. His pupils included John Abernethy, 
Anthony Carlisle, Thomas Chevalier, Henry Cline, Astley 
Cooper, Everard Home, and James Macartney. Distin- 
guished as these men became, Jenner easily held his own with 
them, and Hunter regarded him as a favourite pupil. When 
the two met, the master was in his forty-second year and the 
student in his twenty-first. The first time a young man 
comes into contact with a genius of a commanding order 
marks a distinct epoch in his mind. So it proved to young 
Jenner, who met daily a penetrating thinker devoted to the 
mastery of facts. For Hunter loved science with all the 
passion of a devotee. He ardently pursued truth at all 
costs, and succeeded in communicating this ardour to his 
pupil. The two years Jenner spent under Hunter's roof left 
an imperishable impression on him. Both men were direct 
and straightforward in conduct, and both possessed an 
unquenchable desire for knowledge. The relation of master 
to pupil was replaced by that of friend to friend, and the 
correspondence between them ranged over the wide circle of 
Hunter's researches, lasting till within a short period of 
Hunter's death in 1793. Jenner attached a great value to these 
letters, carefully preserving them in a cover inscribed in his 
own handwriting, " Letters from Mr. Hunter to E. Jenner." 

Already the brain of Jenner was actively at work, and even 
so early as 1770 he mentioned to his teacher facts bearing on 
cow-pox. Hunter possessed the quality, rare in a professor, 
of never damping the ardour of an investigator by suggest- 
ing doubts or difficulties. His practice was to extend 
encouragement, to urge that the matter in hand ought to be 
brought to the test of experiment, and to advise absolute 
accuracy and faithfulness in the procedure adopted. In 
cases of this kind he would say, " Don't think, but try ; be 
patient, be accurate." Hunter infected Jenner with this 
Newtonian dislike of hypotheses. William Clift describes 
Hunter as " standing for hours, motionless as a statue, 
except that, with a pair of forceps in each hand, he was 
picking asunder the connecting fibres of some structure he 
was studying," and Jenner too proved capable of absorption 
for hours in thought. 

In 1771, when Jenner was living with Hunter, Captain 


Cook returned from his first voyage of discovery. Valuable 
specimens of natural history had been collected by Sir 
Joseph Banks, and Hunter recommended his favourite 
pupil for their arrangement and preparation. Jenner 
evinced so much dexterity and knowledge in this task 
that he was offered the appointment of naturalist in the 
next expedition, which sailed in 1772. Such a tempta- 
tion enticed Darwin away, but it failed to entice Jenner, 
whose heart was set on returning to his old home in the 
country when he had finished his studies at St. George's 
Hospital. At first sight it may seem as if the decision of a 
young surgeon to bury himself in a country village was 
unwise. In the light of his after-life the wisdom of his 
choice fully justified itself, for the existence of such an 
affection as cow-pox was known only in a few districts. 
Hunter required the metropolis for his ever-growing 
inquiries; his pupil, on the other hand, required a village for 
the range to which he restricted himself. The genius of men 
like Hunter and Jenner encourages investigation: the man 
of lesser type asks Lord Melbourne's famous question, Why 
can't you let things be ? This is precisely what the man with 
an inquiring turn of mind cannot possibly do. Problems 
fascinated Jenner, though he quickly found that they in no- 
wise fascinated his professional brethren. Repeatedly he 
tried to arouse their attention to them, and just as repeatedly 
he failed. He became a member of a society he called the 
Medico-Convivial, which met at the Fleece Inn, Rodborough, 
and of the Convivio-Medical, which met at Alveston, a vil- 
lage about ten miles from Bristol. Dr. Baron, the biographer 
of Jenner, was a medical man, and he testifies : " Dr. Jenner 
has frequently told me that at the meetings of this society 
(i.e. the Convivio-Medical) he was accustomed to bring for- 
ward the reported prophylactic virtues of cow-pox, and earn- 
estly to recommend his medical friends to prosecute the 
inquiry. All his efforts were, however, ineffectual; his 
brethren were acquainted with the rumour, but they looked 
upon it as one of those vague notions from which no accurate 
or valuable information could be gathered, especially as most 
of them had met with cases in which those who were sup- 
posed to have had cow-pox had subsequently been affected 
with small-pox. These discouragements . . . did not suppress 


the ardour of Jenner's mind. He often recurred to the 
subject in these meetings; at length it became so distasteful 
to his companions, that I have many times heard him declare 
that they threatened to expel him if he continued to harass 
them with so unprofitable a subject." * Dr. Fewster of 
Thornbury was a member of the Convivio-Medical, and he 
persistently undervalued the efforts of Jenner even two years 
after Jenner was able to show, in 1796, that cow-pox is pro- 
tective against small-pox. In a letter to Mr. Rolph, sur- 
geon, of Peckham, dated October n, 1798, Fewster still 
writes : " I think it (i.e. the cow-pox in the natural way) is a 
much more severe disease in general than the inoculated 
small-pox. I do not see any great advantage from inocu- 
lation from the cow-pox : inoculation for the small-pox seems 
to be well understood, so that there is very little need of a 
substitute. It is curious, however, and may lead to 
improvements/' f 

The maxim, " Youth will be served," is the maxim of the 
prize-ring, and yet sometimes it applies to science. Bacon 
surveyed his " Temporis Partus Maximus " and Newton 
unfolded his doctrine of light and colours before either of 
them had reached his twentieth birthday, and Jenner at the 
same age contemplated the removal of one of the direst 
scourges that afflicted the human race. He might have met 
with hope : he met with despair. He might have met with 
encouragement: he met with discouragement. Dr. Baron 
sums up the state of feeling of those medical men who had 
heard of the reported virtues of cow-pox : " We have all 
heard (they would observe) of what you mention, and we 
have even seen examples which certainly do give some sort of 
countenance to the notion to which you allude ; but we have 
also known cases of a perfectly different nature, many who 
were reported to have had the cow-pox, having subsequently 
caught the small-pox. The supposed prophylactic powers 
probably, therefore, depend upon some peculiarity in the con- 
stitution of the individual who has escaped the small-pox; 
and not on any efficacy of that disorder which they may have 
received from the cow. In short, the evidence is altogether 
so inconclusive and unsatisfactory that we pufc no value on it, 

* J. Baron, Life of Jenner, I, p. 48. 
f Ibid., p. 48. 


and cannot think that it will lead to anything but uncertainty 
and disappointment/'* When Mohammed attained fame, 
he married many wives. One of them was young and beau- 
tiful, and she slighted Khadijah, the first and now elderly 
wife of the prophet, saying to him, " Am I not dearer to you 
than Khadijah?" " No, by God, you are not. For 
Khadijah believed in me when none else did." Not one of 
his brethren played this part to Jenner, and it is not easy 
to think of all that mankind might have lost had it not been 
for the indefatigable pursuit of truth that characterised him. 
That John Hunter continued to afford stimulus to his old 
pupil is apparent from Drewry Ottley's Life of John Hunter 
and John Baron's Life of Edward Jenner. The letters pass- 
ing between the master and the student render it obvious 
that each entertained a lively respect for the other. Critics 
like Dr. E. M. Crookshank and Dr. Creighton minimise the 
abilities or at least the originality of Jenner. It is not usual, 
however, for a genius like Hunter to write so often to an 
ordinary member of the medical profession. Some men in 
the front rank owe part of their position to a combination, 
at the same time, in their careers, of the advantages of youth 
and age. Some of them have old heads on young shoulders, 
and others have young heads on old shoulders. Either 
peculiarity confers a marked advantage on its owner. Jen- 
ner had an old head on his young shoulders. " I don't know 
any one," Hunter tells him in 1776, " I would as soon write 
to as you. I don't know anybody I am so much obliged to." 
On January 18, 1776, he writes: " I have but one order to 
send you, which is, to send everything you can get, either 
animal, vegetable, or mineral." The next letter speaks for 
itself, for on December 17, 1777, Hunter says : " I am always 
plaguing you with letters, but you are the only man I can 
apply to." The correspondence of the two men bears trace 
after trace of the stimulus given by Hunter to Jenner. He 
stirs up the country doctor to make observations on the 
temperature of animals and the problems suggested by eels. 
At Hunter's instigation Jenner investigated the migration 
of birds, with the result that he disproved the view that 
ascribes their disappearance to a state of hibernation ; and he 
notably anticipated Darwin in exposing the action of earth- 
* Baron, Life of Jenner, I, p. 125. 


worms in rendering the earth readily fertile. Analogy was 
his favourite guide, and it misled him into opposition to the 
theory of population promulgated by the Rev. Thomas 
Malthus. The young physician generally carried a large 
pocket-book with him; and recorded his thoughts as they 
occurred. These thoughts naturally are now and then with- 
out any connection save that in the mind of the recorder. 
There is reason to believe that, where he could test his ideas 
by experiment, he was ready to do so. Once he was dining 
with a large number at Bath and the conversation turned on 
the question whether the temperature was highest in the 
centre of the flame of a candle or at some small distance 
from its apex. Various opinions were hazarded. Jenner 
at once settled the matter. He placed the candle before him, 
and, inserting his finger into the middle of the flame, he 
retained it there for a short time. He then placed it a little 
above the flame, but was compelled immediately to withdraw 
it. " There, gentlemen," he observed, " the question is 

Before the Medico-Convivial Jenner read papers on 
angina pectoris, ophthalmia, and valvular disease of the heart. 
Letters from Hunter continued to arrive, asking him to for- 
ward salmon-spawn, porpoises, cuckoos, and fossils. The 
young man's mind turned to science. He was disappointed 
in love, and wrote to tell Hunter of his disappointment. Just 
as Richard Cobden urged John Bright when he lost his wife 
to throw himself into the abolition of the corn-laws, similarly 
Hunter wrote on September 25, 1778: "Let her go, never 
mind her. I shall employ you with hedgehogs/' The pay- 
ties given by his wife Anne may have induced the great ana- 
tomist to take this view of matrimony. It was not till March 
6, 1788, that his friend married Catharine Kingscote, and 
during the intervening ten years Hunter's questions combined 
with his own provided him with sufficient mental occupation. 
For several years to come Hunter sent him questions on the 
problem of the winter-sleep of the hedgehog, the autumnal 
storing of fat, the consumption of it during the winter, and 
the like. In 1787 Jenner wrote a paper on the "Natural 
History of the Cuckoo," publishing it in the following year 
in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. 
It sets forth the habits of the cuckoo at some length, observ- 


ing the contents of the stomach in the young bird, the small 
size of the egg, the number of eggs in the oviduct of the 
cuckoo, the fierce behaviour of the young cuckoo when 
inspected in its nest, and the hedge-sparrow's, or other foster- 
parent's, habit of ejecting its own eggs from the nest after 
the cuckoo has deposited hers. Waterton, in his " Essay 
on the Jay," has demonstrated that this last statement is 
absurd. It seems that Jenner asked his nephew to conduct 
some of the observations, and he, after the manner of boys, 
was too indolent to furnish a correct report. In 1788, in 
spite of this mistake, Jenner was elected a Fellow of the 
Royal Society, before he was forty years of age. 

As practice comes before theory, it is not surprising to 
learn that it is to a Greek slave we owe the art of inoculation, 
to an African the value of quassia, to the Jesuits the Peru- 
vian bark, to the barbers the bold use of mercury, and to the 
remark of a dairy-maid one of the causes that turned the 
attention of Jenner to the cure of small-pox. So far back 
as the days when he was pursuing his professional education 
with Daniel Ludlow of Sodbury, a country girl came to 
consult him. On mentioning small-pox to her, she imme- 
diately observed : " I cannot take that disease, for I have 
had cow-pox." This subject was in his thought, and of 
course this incident fastened it on his memory. After his 
recovery from typhus fever in 1794 he continued his investi- 
gations into the protective power of cow-pox against small- 
pox. The dairy-maid had discovered this empirically. 
What were the causes underlying this empiricism? Jen- 
ner's country life led him to observe his horses with care, 
and he came to the conclusion that grease, a disease of the 
feet in horses, and cow-pox were the same disease. This con- 
clusion was erroneous. Still, the more he worked the more 
he felt certain that cow-pox acted as a preventive of small- 

How large a toll was taken by small-pox is clear from a 
few facts. Dr. Jurin examined the London bills of mortality 
for a period of forty-two years, and he calculated that one in 
fourteen, of all that were born, died of small-pox. Of 
persons of all ages taken ill of this disease, in the natural way, 
he showed that one in five or six died. Dr. Heberden 
reckoned that during the last thirty years of the eighteenth 


century the proportion of deaths due to it was 95 in 1,000. 
In 1777 and 1781 the deaths were 2,567 and 3,500 respec- 
tively. As the population of England was then under ten 
millions, it is easy to note how widespread was this disease. 
In Europe it was every whit as prevalent. The deaths in 
Sweden are given in the following table : 

The Year The Number 

1779 15.000 

1784 I2,OOO 

1800 I2,OOO 

1 80 1 6,000 

1822 ii 

1823 37 

There was evidently urgent need for a skilled physician to 
stand between the living and the dead. Jenner made notes 
of a few cases of immunity from small-pox after cow-pox 
which he had encountered. In 1778 he inoculated with 
small-pox a Mrs. H., but the result was a failure. This he 
thought due to her having had cow-pox when very young. 
In 1782 Simon Nichols had cow-pox, and " some years 
afterwards " inoculation failed. In 1795 Jenner failed to 
inoculate Joseph Merret, who had had cow-pox in 1770. He 
did not shrink from trying experiments on his own family. 
In November 1789 he had inoculated his eldest son Edward, 
who was then about one year and a half old, and in March 
1792 he inoculated him again. 

One day Jenner was riding with Edward Gardner on the 
road between Gloucester and Bristol, near Newport, when 
the conversation of the two friends turned as it had so often 
done before on the natural history of cow-pox. The mor- 
tality returns were much in their mind, and as Jenner per- 
ceived the possibility of reducing them, he remarked : " Gard- 
ner, I have entrusted a most important matter to you, which 
I firmly believe will prove of essential benefit to the human 
race. I know you, and should not wish what I have stated 
to be brought into conversation; for should anything 
untoward turn up in my experiments I should be made, par- 
ticularly by my medical brethren, the subject of ridicule 
for I am the mark they all shoot at." 


In May 1796, cow-pox occurred in a farm near Berkeley, 
and a dairy-maid, Sarah Nelmes, caught the disease. On 
May 14 matter was taken from a sore on her hand and 
inserted by means of two superficial incisions in the arm of 
James Phipps, a healthy boy about eight years old. This 
inoculation succeeded. The result was described as much 
the same as after inoculation with variolous matter, except 
that the usual efflorescence had more of " an erysipelatous 
look." The whole died away, leaving " scabs and subsequent 
eschars." May 14, 1796, used to be an annual festival in 
Berlin to commemorate the day on which Jenner performed 
this experiment. The day when Harvey discovered the circu- 
lation of the blood, the day when Newton discovered the law 
of gravitation, the day when Columbus discovered the New 
World these are all memorable days. When John Keats 
first looked into Chapman's Homer he felt impelled to 
pen these words : 

Much have I travelled in the realms of gold, 
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen; 
Round many western islands have I been 
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold. 
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told 
That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne^ 
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene 
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold: 
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies 
When a new planet swims into his ken; 
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes 
He stared at the Pacific and all his men 
Looked at each other with a wild surmise 
Silent, upon a peak in Darien. 

The arm of James Phipps brought to Jenner the same deep- 
seated satisfaction that the sight of the Pacific brought to 
Cortez. S. T. Coleridge once planned a poem on Jenner's 
discovery, but, like so many of his plans, it came to nothing. 
Of course Jenner could not rest satisfied with the case of 
Phipps, for, decisive as it was, it was only a single instance. 
He waited a year in order to add the cases of William 
Rodway, and of Sarah and Elizabeth Wynne. In 1796 or 
1797 he sent his paper to a correspondent who was in the 
confidence of Sir Joseph Banks, President of the Royal 
Society. Jenner's paper on the habits of the cuckoo had 
already been published in the Transactions of this Society, 


and he entertained no doubt that a paper on so epoch-making 
a matter as inoculation by cow-pox would meet with a similar 
welcome. Informally his paper was circulated, and Sir 
Joseph Banks showed it to Lord Somerville, President of 
the Board of Agriculture. Sir Everard Home also looked 
through it. The perusal of the cases and experiments pro- 
duced no conviction on the Council of the Royal Society. 
On the contrary Jenner received a friendly hint that, as he 
had gained some reputation by what we now know to be his 
incorrect paper on the cuckoo, it was inadvisable to present 
what we now know to be his correct paper, which would 
injure his established credit. In 1809 Jenner wrote: " I ex- 
plained in conversation, as I said before, all that passed 
respecting my first paper on the cow-pox intended for the 
Royal Society. It was not with Sir Joseph, but with Home ; 
he took the paper. It was shewn to the Council, and 
returned to me. This, I think, was in the year 1797, after 
the vaccination of one patient only; but even this was strong 
evidence, as it followed that of the numbers I had put to the 
test of the small-pox after casual vaccination. 55 * 

Jenner performed a few additional experiments, and in 
June 1797 he wrote: " I have shown a copy of my intended 
paper on the Cow Pox to our friend, Worthington, who has 
been pleased to express his approbation of it, and to recom- 
mend my publishing it as a pamphlet, instead of sending it 
to the Royal Society/' Edward Gardner and Henry Hicks 
were often consulted about it, and the circle of the discoverer 
read it repeatedly. Woodville criticised the " grease " origin 
of small-pox. In spite of this criticism, Jenner persisted in 
adhering to his belief. In London in 1798 he enjoyed the 
opportunity of meeting his professional brethren, and he 
brought before them the subject that occupied his thoughts. 
To his infinite regret the whole time he was in the metropolis 
he was unable to procure a single person on whom he could 
exhibit the results of inoculation. Some of the virus he 
carried home with him, presenting it to Henry Cline, who 
successfully inoculated it into the hip of a patient by two 

In June 1798 appeared a slim quarto of seventy-five pages, 
dedicated to Dr. C. H. Parry of Bath. Its title was " An 

. ' * J. Baron, Life of Jenner, II, p. 364. 


Inquiry into the Cause and Effects of the Variola Vaccine? , a 
Disease discovered in some parts of the Western Counties of 
England, particularly of Gloucestershire, and known by the 
name of the Cow-Pox."* This booklet contained a fuller 
account of his observations and conclusions. There are 
some coloured plates, and one gives the hand of Sarah Nelmes 
showing the vaccine pustules upon it. Twenty-three cases 
are described, and the author sums up that " the cow-pox 
protects the human constitution from the infection of small- 
pox." That this summing up is sound the experience of a 
century lends ready testimony. An Alfred Russel Wallace 
may mock at it, but the majority of civilised mankind is con- 
tent to adopt it, knowing full well that life proves its value. 
Woodville had pointed out the objections to the " grease " 
theory. Jenner weighed them, but remained unconvinced. 
Accordingly as there are truth and untruth in his cuckoo 
paper, so there are truth and untruth in his magnum opus. 

An Inquiry into the Cause and Effects of the Variola 
Vaccine? met with a mixed reception. One lady, of no 
mean influence among its author's own townsfolk, met him 
soon after it appeared. She accosted him in true Gloucester- 
shire dialect. " So, your book is out at last. Well, I can 
tell you that there be'ant a copy sold in our town; nor 
shan't neither, if I can help it." On another occasion as she 
heard of some rumours of failures in vaccination she came 
up to the doctor with keen eagerness, and said, " Shan't us 
have a general inoculation now ? " That he possessed that 
saving quality, a perfect good-humour, is evident from the 
glee with which he used to relate these two anecdotes. 

That there were failures arose from the fact that vaccina- 
tors were sometimes careless and that occasionally small-pox 
pustules were ignorantly used. A medical man called at the 
Small-pox Hospital in London in order to obtain from Mr. 
Wachsel, the apothecary, leave to charge some threads with 
vaccine virus, as he wished to distribute them to his medical 
correspondents. Mr. Wachsel chanced to be called out of his 
room. During his absence the doctor selected a patient, and 
was busily engaged in charging the threads. Mr. Wachsel 
observed on his return that he had fixed on a patient who had 

* A facsimile edition was published in 1924 in London and Milan by 
H. K. Lewis and A. Lier respectively. 


a general sprinkling of small-pox pustules, and inquired 
whether he intended to furnish his friends with the virus of 
small-pox as well as of cow-pox. He replied, " With the 
virus of cow-pox only." " Then, sir/' said Mr. Wachsel, 
" you know not what you are doing. You are taking the 
virus of small-pox." The threads thus charged, had it not 
been for Mr. Wachsel's vigilance, would have been distri- 
buted as vaccine virus ! 

On March 23, 1799, Jenner saw Dr. Woodville in London, 
who informed him that in one of his cases the cow-pox had 
been communicated by effluvia, and the patient had it in the 
confluent way. In the same month, Woodville published 
his reports, in which he concluded that cow-pox manifested 
itself sometimes in an eruptive disease of great severity, for 
three or four cases out of five hundred had been in consider- 
able danger, and one patient had died. Was there variolous 
matter which had crept into the constitution of the vaccine? 
This was the natural question that came into the mind of 
the discoverer. Bent on answering this question, he pro- 
cured some lymph from the London dairies, and sent it to 
Mr. Marshall by his friend Mr. Tanner, who used it on 127 
cases without any eruptions resulting. Jenner therefore con- 
cluded that in Woodville's cases the eruptions were due to 
variolation, and in this conclusion Drs. Woodville and Pear- 
son afterwards concurred. If blunders were committed in 
the country of the discoverer, it was certain that they would 
be committed elsewhere. Accordingly when we examine the 
report that in Austrian Poland the vaccine inoculation was 
in a backward state, we find that the village matrons and 
barbers employed a very malignant kind of false cow- 

The opposition Jenner experienced is nothing new in the 
history of science. When Harvey announced his discovery 
of the circulation of the blood, he met with vigorous denun- 
ciation on the part of his professional brethren and loss of 
practice on the part of the public. When Jenner lived down 
opposition, he had to face men like Pearson in England and 
Rabaut in France, who claimed to have anticipated him. Dr. 
Baron philosophises on the hard fate of the distinguished 
inventor. " A fact which has been lying common and at 
waste, floating on the very surface of daily experience, is 


seized upon by some penetrating and inquisitive mind. Its 
relations to the different branches of human knowledge are 
examined and defined : it throws a light all around, and is a 
lamp to the feet of the inquirer, while he surveys other 
regions. Having thus explored a terra incognita, up starts 
one, and says, Sir, you have not the whole merit of this 
discovery ; I knew that such a land, as you have visited and 
explored, existed, for I saw it, but did not approach it. 
Another says, I was actually cast away upon the coast; I 
noticed some things which you have described. I did not 
examine them minutely, but I remember, from your descrip- 
tion that such things did exist, and I therefore am entitled to 
the merit and reward which you claim. 

" A process similar to this marked the discussion regarding 
the origin of vaccination. The subject had been forced 
upon the attention of many individuals; but as far as they 
were concerned all the information relating to it might have 
remained in its original and unsatisfactory state. All the 
pretensions, therefore, of the men that became wise by the 
labours of Jenner, who achieved what they were unable to 
accomplish, instead of detracting from his fame ought to 
raise it still higher/'* So thirty-three eminent physicians and 
forty surgeons of the metropolis felt, for they signed in 1799 
a testimony to the value of vaccination. Dr. Erasmus Dar- 
win, the famous author of Zoonomia, wrote to Jenner on 
February 24, 1802: " In a little time it may occur that the 
christening and vaccination of children may always be per- 
formed on the same day/' 

The day when vaccination would be warmly and uni- 
versally welcomed was not yet to dawn. In a speech when 
proposing a vote of thanks to Pasteur at the International 
Congress, held in London in 1881, Sir James Paget, the emi- 
nent surgeon, said, in his silvery tones : " Jenner had to fight 
for the benefit of men's lives against a vehement opposition; 
to that for the benefit of cattle, which are human property, 
there is no such opposition. It is truly a fact that we may 
well remember; though it is a novelty to many in our pro- 
fession, who have frequent opportunities for seeing how 
much more valuable a man feels his own property to be than 
his neighbour's health. . . . Property and healthy life may 
* J. Baron, Life of Jenner, I, pp. 563-4. 


soon be regarded as more nearly equivalent than they have 
been hitherto." This view did not hold good in 1881, and it 
certainly held less good in 1799. 

The contest Jenner was forced to wage was mainly with 
men of his own profession. The most formidable of his 
antagonists was Dr. Ingenhousz of Vienna, who left honour- 
able mention of his labours in vegetable physiology and elec- 
tricity. In the autumn of 1798, being then in his seventieth 
year, he came to pay a visit to Lord Lansdowne at Bowood. 
When An Inquiry into the Cause and Effects of the Variola 
Vaccine was published, he read it, dissenting from its 
conclusions. Taking advantage of his residence in Wilt- 
shire, he investigated the " extraordinary doctrine " of pro- 
tection by cow-pox. Jenner confided in his friend Edward 
Gardner : " My friends must not desert me now. Brickbats 
and hostile weapons of every sort are flying thick around me ; 
but with a very little aid, a few friendly opiates seasonably 
administered, they will do me no injury. 

" Ingenhousz has declined my offer of receiving my letter 
in print so that must be modelled anew. We must set off 
by impressing the idea that there will be no end to cavil 
and controversy until it be defined with precision what is, 
and what is not cow-pox. " Ingenhousz found out from 
Mr. Alsop of Calne, Dr. Pulteney of Blandford, and Major- 
General Hastings that persons had contracted small-pox 
after cow-pox. 

It was plain that there was need of further inquiry. Jen- 
ner replied frankly to Ingenhousz that his own observations 
had been few, and no doubt they needed the confirmation of 
other observers. As the opposition increased he published on 
April 5, 1799, his Further Observations on the Variola 
Vaccina or Cow-pox, in which he endeavours to meet the 
points raised against his ideas. He continued to work at his 
subject at Berkeley and at Cheltenham, and in 1800 he pub- 
lished A Continuation of Facts and Observations relative 
to the Cow-pock. He added two continuations of the same 
subject. The first was entitled On the Origin of Vaccine 
Inoculation (1801), and the second was On the Varieties 
of the Vaccine Pustule occasioned by an Herpetic State of the 

Dr. Pearson informed Jenner that " you cannot imagine 


how fastidious the people are with regard to this business of 
the cow-pox. One says it is very filthy and nasty to derive 
it from the sore heel of horses! Another, O my God, we 
shall introduce the diseases of animals among us, and we 
have too many already of our own/' -It is easy to understand 
the impatience Jenner felt when he wrote on March 7, 1799, 
to Gardner : " I am beset on all sides with snarling fellows, 
and so ignorant withal that they know no more of the disease 
they write about than the animals which generate it. The 
last philippic that has appeared comes from Bristol, and is 
communicated by Dr. Sims of London. Sims gives com- 
ments on it in harsh and unjustifiable language. It is 
impossible for me, single-handed, to combat all my adver- 


Dr. Benjamin Moseley, physician to Chelsea Hospital, 
thought fit in a treatise on sugar to turn aside to attack the 
artificial introduction of cow-pox. In Jamaica he had ren- 
dered valuable service in military operations by his skill as 
principal medical officer. He had published a standard 
work on tropical diseases and the climate of the West Indies 
that had reached three editions, and his versatility is clear 
from the fact that his treatise on coffee had reached five 
editions. On his return to London he gradually acquired a 
large practice among the upper classes in St. James's. On 
the appearance of An Inquiry, he spoke of it as a portent 
in the heavens, whose significance is not altogether clear. 
" Some pretend that a restive, greasy-heeled horse will kick 
down all the old gally-pots of Galen. ... To preserve, as 
far as in me lies, the genesis of this desirable, this excelling 
distemper to posterity, I mention that it is said to originate in 
what is called the greasy-heel distemper in horses. . . . The 
virtues of this charming distemper are said to be an amulet 

against the small-pox In this cow-mania it is not enough 

for reason to concede that the cow-pox may lessen, for a 
time, the disposition in the habit to receive the infection of 
the small-pox ; all cutaneous determinations, catarrhal fevers, 
and every disease of the lymphatics do the same. . . . The 
small-pox and the cow-pox are not analogous, but radically 
dissimilar. . . . Can any person say what may be the conse- 
quences of introducing the lues bovilla, a bestial humour, 
into the human frame after a long lapse of years ? . . . The 


doctrine of engrafting distempers is not yet comprehended 
by the wisest men; and I wish to arrest the hurry of public 
credulity until the subject had undergone a deep, calm, dis- 
passionate scrutiny; and to guard parents against suffering 
their children becoming victims to experiment." 

The efforts of Dr. Moseley to deepen prejudice were 
seconded by Dr. William Rowley and Dr. Squirrell. They 
actually published prints representing the human visage in 
the act of transformation, and assuming that of a cow. 
There was a " Master Jowles, the cow-poxed, ox-cheeked 
young gentleman/' and " Miss Mary Ann Lewis, the cow- 
poxed, the cow-managed young lady/' exhibited in clever 
caricature by Dr. Rowley. Nor did he deem it unworthy to 
collect absurdities like this and to term his work " a solemn 
appeal, not to the passions of mankind, but to the reason and 
judgment of all who were capable of deep reflection." There 
was wisdom in his method, for the cartoon and the carica- 
ture are the most effective of weapons. The late G. W. 
Curtis used in Harper's Weekly to attack Tammany Hall 
as it was run by William Marcy Tweed. Tweed felt the 
sharpness of the weapon directed against him. He said 
once : " I don't care a straw for your newspaper articles : my 
constituents don't know how to read, but they can't help 
seeing them damned pictures." 

The King's Reader in Physic at Cambridge, Sir Isaac Pen- 
nington, and John Birch, Surgeon Extraordinary to the 
Prince of Wales and Surgeon of St. Thomas's Hospital, 
opposed the new practice, and the latter published in 1806 a 
temperate survey of Jenner's arguments, which by no means 
consisted of sheer abuse. In Edinburgh the reception of the 
new remedy was decidedly tepid. Nor was the welcome 
warm in the United States, where some medical men, using 
small-pox pustules by mistake, spread the very disease they 
were trying to check. At home the Moseleys spread their 
satire. The Continent, however, was more eager to give 
Jenner a chance than England, though Ehrmann of Frank- 
fort attempted to prove from quotations of the prophetical 
parts of Scripture and the writings of the Fathers that the 
vaccine was nothing less than Antichrist. 

That curious woman, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, had 
introduced inoculation into England, and accordingly we find 


that Lady Frances Morton, Lady Peyton, and Princess 
Louisa of Prussia followed the excellent example she had set. 
Lord Egremont (the patron of J. M. W. Turner), Lord 
Hervey, the Earl of Aylesbury, the Earl of Ossory, Lord 
Elgin, and the Earl of Berkeley were also favourably dis- 
posed to Jenner s idea. The Duke of York recommended 
vaccination in the army. On March 27, 1800, Queen 
Charlotte asked Jenner many questions relative to the 
progress of cow-pox. 

For the most part the clergy showed themselves fully alive 
to the importance of the cure placed before them. Men 
like Mr. Holt, Rector of Finmere, near Buckingham, the 
Rev. Dr. Booker of Dudley, the Rev. T. A. Warren of Kens- 
worth, near Dunstable, and the Rev. T. T. A. Reed of Leck- 
hamstead, proved warm advocates of vaccination. The Rev. 
Dr. Booker did more than recommend the practice from the 
pulpit. He printed pamphlets arguing in its favour, and one 
of these he gave to everyone who brought a baby to be bap- 
tised, also distributing regularly about twenty a week. At 
home Bishop William Cleaver of Chester and abroad a 
Danish Bishop, Balles, extended their valuable support. The 
Rev. J. Plumptre of Hinxton, Cambridgeshire, and the Rev. 
Dr. Ramsden of Grundisburgh, Suffolk, preached before 
the University of Cambridge, seizing the occasion to eulogise 
Jenner. - Plumptre employed at his own cost a medical man 
to vaccinate the poor, and at times took that office upon him- 
self. He also printed and circulated largely songs and 
ballads calculated to impress the peasantry. For he was 
emphatically of the belief of Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun: 
" I knew a very nice man . . . that believed if a man were 
permitted to make all the ballads, he need not care who should 
make the laws of a nation." 

The World War has rendered us all familiar with the 
conception that a battle may be won in the munition factory 
as well as at the front. It is no new idea. Arkwright and 
Cartwright did their share every whit as efficiently as Nelson 
and Wellington in defeating Napoleon. Nor can the labours 
of the discoverer of remedies against disease be ignored. 
What Sir Almroth Wright did in our generation, Edward 
Jenner did in his. The sailors of our fleet were vaccinated 
in 1 80 1, when the medical officers presented a gold medal to 


Jenner. On it Apollo presents a vaccinated sailor to Britan- 
nia, who holds a civic crown inscribed " Jenner," and the 
reverse bears an anchor with the names of the King and Earl 
Spencer, First Lord of the Admiralty. Ours is an age when 
the forces of internationalism are supposed to be gaining in 
strength, yet five of the episodes of the Napoleonic Wars may 
well set us thinking. As Sir Humphry Davy received a 
prize from the French Government while the war was raging 
for his invention of the safety-lamp, so Napoleon transcended 
his particularism in 1804 when he struck one of the most 
beautiful of his medals in order to show his estimate of the 
value of vaccination. The next year Jenner addressed to 
the Emperor a petition, begging the release of two of his 
friends, men of science and literature. Just as Napoleon 
was about to reject the proffered petition, Josephine uttered 
the name of Jenner. Her husband paused for an instant, 
and exclaimed, "Jenner! ah, we can refuse nothing to that 
man/' In 1808, while the war had still seven years to rage, 
the National Institute of France elected him a corresponding 
member, and three years later the same distinguished body 
conferred upon him a still higher honour by placing him on 
the list of its foreign associates. Could any of these five 
episodes have occurred during the World War ? 

On June 2, 1802, our House of Commons proposed, on 
the motion of the Prime Minister, Addington, that ten thou- 
sand pounds be given to the discoverer for his splendid 
services, and this motion was carried. Parliament appointed 
a committee to report on Jenner's claims before the motion 
was proposed. Before its members Dr. Pearson endeavoured 
to show that the discovery was not Jenner's but merely 
a part of common knowledge, and in our day Dr. Crookshank 
and Dr. Creighton prefer similar charges. That a man's foes 
are those of his own household is common knowledge, and it 
was certainly so with the discoverer of vaccination. In 1814 
some members of the College of Physicians of London felt 
that his name would do honour to a bead-roll on which were 
the names of Linacre, Caius, and Harvey. Oxford Uni- 
versity had conferred upon him its honorary M.D. " No," 
held some of the fellows of the College of Physicians, " it 
is true that Dr. Jenner, coming from Oxford as he does, may, 
if he chooses, claim admission into our body, but he can only 


take his place with us after undergoing the usual examin- 

It is the custom of the Roman Catholic Church, on the 
proposal to canonise a man distinguished for his holiness, to 
appoint an advocatus diaboli. His duties are largely per- 
functory. Jenner felt the treatment to which he had been 
subjected. " I told Dr. Moseley that in his assertion against 
it [i.e. vaccination] he had acted the part of the devil's advo- 
cate at a canonisation, who was to say all the harm he could 
against the saint in order that his life might be thoroughly 
scrutinised, and his merits appear all the more conspicuous." 
Jenner erred. It was the role of the Moseley s, the Rowleys, 
and the Squirrells to scrutinise his life thoroughly in order 
that his demerits might appear the more conspicuous. The 
century that has followed his death exposes his merits. For 
the whole of Immunology, which has now become an inde- 
pendent science, arises from vaccination. The work of 
Pasteur, Lister, and Koch, and the whole of the modern 
therapeutical movement are based as naturally on Jenner as 
is astronomy on Copernicus. 



" EVERY Scottish man has a pedigree/' says Sir Walter Scott 
in his autobiography. " It is a national prerogative as 
inalienable as his pride and his poverty." Accordingly James 
Young Simpson (1811 1870) has one, the ramifications of 
which his biographer, Dr. J. Duns, spends some space in 
detailing. His maternal grandfather, John Jarvey, farmer 
at Balbardie, near Bathgate, Linlithgowshire, claimed descent 
from a Huguenot family. John Jarvey had married Mary 
Cleland, whose mother was a Cleland of Auchinlee, the 
representative branch of the Clelands of Cleland. If Robert 
Burns is right in maintaining that an honest man is the 
noblest work of God, Simpson as well as possessing gentle 
blood on his mother's side had noble blood on his father's. 
His father was the village baker, who, we may feel assured, 
gave his customers excellent value. James Simpson was the 
seventh son borne by his mother, who during her short life 
gave her family that sound Puritan training which has 
done so much to make Scotland what it is. There is, as we 
all realise, an evil side to Puritanism, but no one can read the 
family record of the Simpsons without perceiving how it 
steadied them to face the responsibilities of life. Puritanism 
not only gave their mother that force of character which 
impressed all who met her, but it also gave her the quiet 
and loving heart that endeared her to many. If George 
Herbert is correct in thinking that " a good mother is worth 
a hundred schoolmasters," then the Simpsons were fortunate 
young people. She believed that or are est lob or are, and, as 
her family knew well, regularly retired to pray. When 
Simpson was only nine, he lost her, and her death was a 



grievous loss. His brothers and his sister Mary were 
devoted to him. " My second mother," he wrote of his 
sister, " the only mother in later days I knew/ 1 If Mary 
was a mother to him, his eldest brother Sandy was a 
father. Of his Benjamin Sandy always thought, " I aye felt 
he would be great some day/' Clearly this youngest 
brother, unlike many, invariably had honour in his own 
country and in his father's house. 

In the early decades of the nineteenth century superstition 
flourished in Linlithgowshire. Simpson's grandfather 
Alexander, in order to bring to an end a murrain of cattle, 
interred a cow alive. His uncle Thomas bought a little farm, 
Gormyre, and enclosed a small triangular corner of one of 
the fields within a stone wall. This corner, which remained 
cut off, was called the " Gudeman's Croft." It was a species 
of tithe to the Spirit of Evil in the hope that the foul fiend 
would abstain from ever blighting or damaging the 
rest of the farm. Of course the laird of Gormyre gave Auld 
Clootie the most worthless piece of land on the whole farm. 

Lessons proved easy to the lad and he was generally dux 
of his class at school. His master was Mr. MacArthur, 
and among the boys was John Reid, afterwards Professor of 
Anatomy at St. Andrews. Simpson loved knowledge and 
he loved facts on which to base his knowledge. When he 
became a man, it was remarked in his presence that " the 
Bible and Shakespeare are the best books in the world/' 
Simpson made a characteristic addition : " The Bible and 
Shakespeare and Oliver and Boyd's Almanac! At least I 
know the Almanac would have been the greatest prize for me 
when a boy/' This " lad o' pairts " entered Edinburgh 
University when he was only fourteen. " Very young, very 
young and very solitary, very poor and almost friendless," 
he said forty years later to his fellow-citizens, when receiving 
the freedom of the City of Edinburgh from its Lord Provost, 
Dr. William Chambers, " I came to settle in Edinburgh and 
fight amongst you a hard and uphill battle of life for bread, 
and name, and fame; and the fact that I stand here before 
you this day so far testifies that in that arduous struggle I 
have won." Yes, he had won, though nature by the short- 
ness of the winner's life had exacted her price for the victory. 
On his arrival at Edinburgh he joined John Reid, and the 


two lads lodged with Mr. MacArthur, who had now taken 
his medical degree. When they had been a short time with 
him, Dr. MacArthur said to Simpson's brother Sandy, " I 
can now do with four hours' sleep, John Reid can do with six, 
but I have not been able to break in James yet." He did, 
however, break in James. He himself was a man of 
indefatigable energy who ever prophesied a brilliant place 
for his two former pupils: "If only they would work. 55 
When Reid and Simpson attained position he used to remark : 
"Yes, but how they worked!" MacArthur belongs to the 
class of man that does as an agent what he never could 
have done as a principal. 

The life of Simpson at Edinburgh University was the 
life of a thrifty and hardworking student. He felt that 
expenses at home were heavy, and the least he could do for 
his family was to be as little burdensome as possible. His 
means were so scanty that he was forced to reckon his 
expenses even in pennies. In the entries in his undergraduate 
note-book we meet with : " Subject 2, Spoon 6rf., and Bread 
and Tart, one shilling and eightpence," and " Fur Cap 14 sh., 
Mary's Tippet 2 sh. and 6d." In the blank leaf of his little 
cash-book he wrote : 

No trivial gain nor trivial loss despise, 
Mole-hills, if often heaped, to mountains rise. 
Weigh every small expense, and nothing waste, 
Farthings long saved amount to pounds at last. 

If the poetry of the lines leaves something to be desired, the 
sentiment they express leaves nothing to be desired. 

The interest taken by Simpson in his studies is not simply 
that taken by a young man anxious to attain a leading 
position in the medical profession. Nor were his studies 
merely of the bread-and-butter order, to use the apt German 
phrase. For he read his botany, zoology, geology, and 
meteorology with one eye upon his examinations and the 
other fixed upon weaknesses in the explanations of his 
lecturers. These weaknesses might be logical or due to 
contradiction of facts the undergraduate had observed for 
himself. No young man who cared merely for passing his 
examinations, even with credit, would wish to find out " a 
law determining the appearance of stragglers, as well as of 


the birds which regularly visit this country at particular 
seasons." Just as Jenner noted every phenomenon of which 
he had no adequate explanation, so did Simpson. He 
admired Sir Isaac Newton, probably the greatest man of 
science our race ever produced, and his admiration is based 
in part upon his gigantic genius and intellectual strength 
and in part upon his powers of patient thought and industry. 
If Sir Walter Scott could toil terribly, so could young Simp- 
son. In fact, throughout his life he leant to the view that 
between men who attain unusual distinction and those who 
do not there is not more than a one per cent, difference, but 
it is just this one per cent, difference that counts. Of course 
he had sleepless diligence, but so have many Scots. He had 
originality of thought, and he took notes at college, as Opie 
is said to have mixed his colours, " with brains." 

Simpson flowered early, and was cut off early. Eager for 
intellectual distinction, and for the rewards which would 
enable him to repay the sacrifices made in his home, it seems 
to us that he was careless of health. The strenuous work 
of Edinburgh University is seldom undertaken by the under- 
graduates of either Oxford or Cambridge, nor is it altogether 
desirable that this should be so. For there is manifold truth 
in the saying of Toppfer that a year of downright loitering 
is a desirable element in a liberal education. Such an element 
was entirely unknown to Simpson at any period of his life. 
To toil terribly was part and parcel of his character. He 
never had a margin in his life of hurried and unceasing 
thought. To him " work was master and the lord of work, 
who is God." He began his medical studies in 1827 and 
graduated M.D. in 1832. He shrank so much from the 
sight of suffering that at one time it did not seem as if he 
would be able to remain a medical student. When he wit- 
nessed the awful agony of a poor Highland woman under 
amputation of the breast, he left the class-room with the 
firm intention of seeking employment as a writer's clerk. 
It is a feeling common to not a few sensitive medical students, 
but he was unusually sensitive. On second thoughts, he 
returned to the study of medicine, asking, " Can anything be 
done to make operations less painful?" The note of this 
question is never absent from the rest of his career. In 1836 
he demanded, " Cannot something be done to render the 


patient unconscious while under acute pain, without inter- 
fering with the free and healthy play of natural functions ? " 
For a time he turned his attention to mesmerism, a direction 
in which he possessed wonderful powers. When he was 
created a baronet in 1866, he took for his crest the healing 
rod of ^Esculapius, and for his motto " Victor Dolore " 
a motto he was amply entitled to assume. 

Is early disappointment an element of later success? The 
cases of Lord Tenterden and Simpson suggest that this is so. 
When the former was about the age of fourteen, his father 
put him forward as a candidate for a place as singing-boy 
in Canterbury Cathedral. But as his voice was husky, 
another lad was elected. In after-years, as Lord Chief 
Justice, he went the home circuit with Mr. Justice Richard- 
son, and visited the cathedral with his fellow-judge. 
Pointing to a singer still in the choir, he said, " Behold, 
brother Richardson, that is the only human being I ever 
envied. When at school in this town we were candidates 
for a chorister's place ; he obtained it ; and if I had gained my 
wish, he might have been accompanying you as Chief Justice, 
and pointing me out as his old schoolfellow, the singing-man." 
When Simpson obtained his surgical diploma he sought a 
situation as surgeon to the village of Inverkip, on the Clyde. 
As he had some local influence, he deemed his chances good. 
" When not selected," he informs us, " I felt perhaps a 
deeper amount of chagrin and disappointment than I haye 
ever experienced since that date. If chosen, I would probably 
have been working there as a village doctor still. But like 
many other men I have, in relation to my whole fate in 
life, found strong reason to recognise the mighty fact that 

There's a Divinity that shapes our ends, 
Rough-hew them how we will."* 


Simpson's doctoral dissertation was on death from inflam- 
mation, and his examiner was Dr. John Thomson, the 
Professor of Pathology, who was so much struck with this 
Latin f dissertation that he engaged Simpson as his assistant 

* J. Duns, Memoir of Sir James Y. Simpson, p. 33. 
f Simpson was amon^r the last graduates examined through the 
medium of Latin ; cf . H. Laing Gordon, Sir James Simpson, p. 39. 


at the salary of fifty pounds a year. Thomson steadily 
suggested that his assistant should turn from pathology to 
obstetrics, conduct that was on his part very self-denying. 
The assistant took the proffered advice on the spot. Never- 
theless, he gave his lectures on pathology with readiness and 
fluency as well as with knowledge. The success of his 
lectures was immediate, and his success came as the reward 
of his hard work. He cared for his subject, and this care was 
at once evident to the men who attended his first lectures. 
He was an attractive lecturer whose mesmeric presence and 
pleasing voice were undoubted assets. Distinction in the 
academic world foreshadowed distinction in the larger world 
of the Scots metropolis, and in 1835 ^ e was appointed 
senior president of the Royal Medical Society of Edinburgh 
when only in his twenty- fourth year. 

In 1839 Dr. James Hamilton resigned the Midwifery 
Chair. A year or two previously Simpson had remarked to 
some ladies he was escorting to the " capping " of the 
graduates : " Do you see that old gentleman ? well, I intend 
to have his gown/' There were obstacles in the way. When 
are there not? The candidate was young and he was a 
bachelor. The latter obstacle was removed by his marriage 
to Miss Jessie Grindlay of Liverpool on December 26, 1839. 
Time every day was removing the former. As Robertson 
Smith and William Thomson (afterwards Lord Kelvin) 
felt that their youth was a barrier in their way when they 
desired chairs, so Simpson felt his. He longed for his 
brother John's prematurely whitened head to give him at 
any rate the appearance of the weight of years. The contest 
lay between Dr. Evory Kennedy, who enjoyed the support 
of much of the University, and Simpson. The electors were 
Edinburgh Town Council, a body that on the whole has 
shown discernment in its appointments. Its members were 
vigorously canvassed, and documents of portentous length 
the testimonials of one candidate extended to more than 150 
large octavo pages were sent in to them for their considera- 
tion. On February 4, 1840, the election took place. Out 
of the thirty-three present, seventeen voted for Simpson and 
sixteen for Kennedy. Immediately after the election he 
wrote to Mrs. Grindlay : " My dearest Mother, Jessie's 
honeymoon and mine begins to-morrow. I was elected 


Professor to-day by a majority of one. Hurrah ! Your ever 
affectionate son, J. Y. Simpson." * 

His private practice was commensurate with his public 
distinction. His fee-book testified how increasingly patients 
sought his services. Indeed he became in such demand that 
there was not time enough even for them. He burst out 
with an " O that there were double twenty- four hours in 
the day ! " Even this allowance would not have sufficed for 
the demands constantly made upon him. Thrifty as he had 
been in his student days, he was not thrifty towards himself 
in the collection of his fees. It is possible to give a turn 
to the old saying of " Street angel, house devil," for a man 
may serve after-generations, and not his own. It is not the 
least enviable jewel of Simpson's crown of success that he 
served his own generation as faithfully as after-generations. 
There were more names in his books than there was money 
in his pocket. The generosity of the medical profession is 
known to its members and to the clergy, who realise most 
the amount of good done by stealth by the surgeon. Simp- 
son's relatives and friends often urged him so to regulate 
the management of his practice as to ensure his fee. His 
answer was : " I prefer to have my reward in the gratitude 
of my patients." 

A Lammermoor shepherd hopes " the Lord will bless him 
and his for all his kindness to Jean." A shoemaker tells him : 
" Tammy's been another callant since you saw him ; we thank 
God for such a doctor." A minister writes, enclosing a 
fee, which was returned : " To you, under God, I feel indebted 
that I have still her who is the light of my heart and hearth. 
We cease not to remember you in our prayers." Nor did he 
forget other professional struggling men. Many such a 
man could call to mind that when he was bidding farewell to 
his old Professor, Simpson would follow him to the door 
with the apologetic inquiry if he had enough money to start 
his professional career. If not, the loan was forthcoming 
with the words, " for I was poor too, and if my brothers 
hadn't helped me without stint, I would not be where I am 

There have been men who have been great obstetricians 

* E. B. Simpson, Sir James K. Simpson, p. 40. 


and nothing more. Simpson was not one of these, for the 
range of his curiosity was of the widest. The feeling that 
the cobbler should stick to his last is even yet fairly wide- 
spread. We see it when Huxley endeavoured to confine 
Lord Kelvin to mathematical physics to the exclusion of 
geology, and we see it in our own time. If the ramifications 
of midwifery led Simpson to considerations of surgery, then 
he was not to be deterred by the warnings of surgeons that 
he should confine himself to his own proper subject. He 
was a man whose aim was the healing of humanity, and no 
object that could compass this end was foreign to him. 
Fife caves, cup-marked stones, ancient sculptures, the pro- 
vision of medical officers for the Roman army these are a 
fraction of the subjects that surged in his ever-active brain. 
The Lancet might call him to task for his dabbling in seances, 
but the all-embracing explanation he tendered was that this 
was a subject that deserved a fair trial. He always tried to 
preserve an open mind. His foresight was at least as 
remarkable as his insight. In advance of his time he 
anticipated the development of ovariotomy, and he prophesied 
in his graduation address the discovery of the Rontgen rays. 
" Possibly/' we learn, " even by the concentration of electrical 
and other lights we may render many parts of the body, 
if not the whole body, sufficiently diaphanous for the 
inspection of the practised eye of the physician and surgeon. " 
For such a suggestion to have been made thirty-five years 
before the actual discovery by Rontgen is very surprising. 
He was also before his day in the welcome he extended to 
the pioneers of the lady doctors. 

In January 1847 Simpson was appointed one of Queen 
Victoria's Physicians for Scotland, and the Duchess of 
Sutherland added to his natural pride when she informed him 
that her mistress deemed that this was a post " which his 
high character and abilities make him very fit for/' * To 
his brother Sandy he wrote : " Flattery from the Queen is 
perhaps not common flattery, but I am far less interested in 
it than in having delivered a woman this week without any 
pain while inhaling sulphuric ether. I can think of naught 
else/' f Ever since he had witnessed the agony of the poor 

* J. Duns, Memoir of Sir James Y. Simpson, p. 201. 
t Ibid., p. 202. 


Highland woman, the problem of pain, of unnecessary pain, 
had never been far from his thoughts. It is intelligible, 
therefore, that he should write, " I can think of naught else." 
Ether was one way out of it. Were there not other drugs? 
Of course there were, and equally of course experiments must 
be made with them, for there were disadvantages as well as 
advantages in the use of ether. Faraday in our country and 
Godman in America had realised the effects of the inhalation 
of the vapour of this drug. 

Perchloride of formyle, or chloroform, was first discovered 
and described at nearly the same time by Soubeiran in 1831 
and by Liebig in 1832. The first to ascertain accurately its 
composition was the French chemist Dumas, and this he 
did in 1835. None of these three, however, entertained any 
idea that chloroform could be turned to the relief of pain 
under an operation. Yet when Sir Humphry Davy had 
applied nitrous oxide he wrote in 1830: " It appears capable 
of destroying physical pain. It may be used with advantage 
during surgical operations in which no great effusion of blood 
takes place." Sound requires an atmosphere, and there was 
no atmosphere for this fertile conception of Davy. 
For forty years it lay dormant. As Mr. Colton was 
lecturing on laughing-gas in Hartford, Connecticut, he had 
among his auditors Dr. Horace Wells, dentist. He saw a 
person, who inhaled it, fall and bruise himself badly, and 
remain unaware of the fact. Next day Mr. Colton adminis- 
tered the gas to Dr. Wells, and Dr. Riggs extracted one of 
his teeth. " A new era in tooth-pulling ! " he exclaimed. 
" It did not hurt me more than the prick of a pin." This 
was the first anaesthetic operation in the United States, and 
it took place in 1844. Dr. Riggs drew six teeth from another 
patient, at one sitting, without any suffering. Dr. Wells 
informed Drs. Warren, Heyward, Jackson, and Morton of 
his discovery. There was then to be a public demonstration 
before the Medical School of Boston and some surgeons of 
the Massachusetts Hospital. There was a single slip in the 
single experiment allowed Dr. Wells, and that sufficed to 
end his career in hisses and hoots. The truth was that he 
had not given a sufficiently large dose. 

In 1842 Mr. Crawford Long of Georgia employed the 


vapour of ether.* Dr. Morton, a daring dentist of Boston, 
proceeded to experiment on nitrous oxide gas along the line 
of Dr. Wells. He applied to Dr. Charles T. Jackson, who 
took a keen concern in the proposed experiment. Jackson 
recommended Morton to try ether. On September 30, 1846, 
Morton inhaled it, with the result that he was eight minutes 
unconscious. He at once drew the conclusion that operations 
were possible by means of ether. He asked for a public 
trial of it at Massachusetts General Hospital on October 16, 

1846, and, to quote the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, 
" by this priceless gift to humanity, the fierce extremity of 
suffering has been steeped in the waters of forgetfulness, 
and the deepest furrow in the knotted brow of agony has 
been smoothed for ever." In a letter written by Simpson 
to Morton on November 19, 1847, we read: " Of course the 
great thought is that of producing insensibility, and for that 
the world is, I think, indebted to you." The Americans died 
without wealth or honour and with worry and disappoint- 
ment, Wells dying insane. 

Throughout the autumn and summer of 1847 Simpson and 
his assistants, Dr. Matthews Duncan and Dr. George Keith, 
tried narcotic drug after narcotic drug. On November 4, 

1847, a red-letter day. in the history of the alleviation of 
suffering, the first trial of chloroform as an anaesthetic 
occurred. The experimenters were Simpson and his two 
assistants. The witnesses were Mrs. Simpson, her sister 
Miss Grindlay, her niece Miss Petrie, and her brother-in-law 
Captain Petrie. Simpson wrote to Mr. Waldie, who had 
thought chloroform worth a trial : " I am sure you will be 
delighted to see part of the good results of our hasty con- 
versation. I had the chloroform for several days in the 
house before trying it, as, after seeing it such a heavy, 
unvolatile-like liquid, I despaired of it, and went on dreaming 
about others. The first night we took it, Dr. Duncan, Dr. 
Keith, and I all tried it simultaneously, and were all ' under 
the table ' in a minute or two. 5 * Dr. Keith told Miss 
Simpson, the daughter of the discoverer, in 1891 that: " Dr. 
Miller, in the appendix to his work on surgery, published 
soon after, gives a pretty full account of the scene. It is 

* H. H. Young, "Long, the discoverer of Anaesthesia," Johns Hop- 
kins Hospital Bulletin, 1897, VIII, pp. 174-84. 


pretty correct, only he says we all took chloroform at once. 
This, with a new substance to try, would have been foolish, 
and the fact is, I began to inhale it a few minutes before 
the others. On seeing the effects on me, and hearing my 
approval before I went quite over, they both took a dose, 
and I believe we were all more or less under the table 
together, much to the alarm of your mother, who was 
present. " * 

Professor Miller, who used to appear every morning to 
see if the experimenters were still in the land of the living, 
says that " these experiments were performed after the long 
day's toil was over, at late night or early morn, and when 
the greater part of mankind were soundly anaesthetised in the 
arms of common sleep/' He describes how, after a weary 
day's labour, the three sat down and inhaled various drugs 
out of tumblers, as was their custom, and chloroform was 
searched for and " found beneath a heap of waste paper, and 
with each tumbler newly charged, the inhalers resumed their 
occupation. . , . A moment more, then all was quiet, and 
then a crash. On awakening Dr. Simpson's first perception 
was mental. 'This is far stronger and better than ether/ 
he said to himself. His second was to note that he was 
prostrate on the floor, and that among the friends about him 
there was both confusion and alarm. Of his assistants, Dr. 
Duncan he saw snoring heavily, and Dr. Keith kicking 
violently at the table above him. They made several more 
trials of it that eventful evening, and were so satisfied with 
the results that the festivities of the evening did not terminate 
till a late hour, 3 a.m." f 

Miss Grindlay used often to speak of Dr. Keith's ghastly 
expression when, ceasing to kick, he raised his head to the 
level of the table and stared with unconscious eyes on the 
onlookers. It was fitting that the first woman to feel the in- 
fluence of this new agent was Miss Petrie, the niece of the 
discoverer. The first child born under its influence was 
the daughter of a medical contemporary of Simpson's. As the 
first child in all the Russias that was vaccinated was baptised 
Vaccinoff, so this baby girl was baptised Anaesthesia. " You 
will be pleased to hear the Queen [Victoria] had chloroform 

* E. B. Simpson, Sir James Y. Simpson, p. 58. 
.. . t Ibid., pp. 58-9. 


administered to her during her late confinement. Her 
Majesty was greatly pleased with the effect, and she .certainly 
never has had a better recovery/' Sir James Clark, one of 
Victoria's physicians from London, wrote in April 1853. 

The experiments did not cease with those of that epoch- 
making day, November 4, 1847. Miss Grindlay says that 
her brother-in-law came into the dining-room one afternoon, 
holding a little bottle in his hand, and his words were, " This 
little bottle will turn the world upside-down." He then 
poured some of the contents into a tumbler, breathed it, and 
fell unconscious. Miss Petrie mentions that he " tried every- 
thing on himself first." Once, after swalloiwing some 
concoction, he remained insensible for two hours. Dr. Keith 
recalled another experiment when he tried a compound of 
carbon which brought on such irritation in breathing that 
he had to be kept under chloroform in order to relieve him. 
Sir Lyon Playfair (afterwards Lord Playfair) in 1883 told 
the House of Commons no more than the bare truth when 
he asserted that in experimenting upon himself Simpson was 
ever " bold even to rashness." Lord Playfair was speaking 
of vivisection, and told how Sir James, still searching for 
something better, came to his laboratory, and Playfair put 
in his hand a new liquid. On the spot he wanted to inhale 
it. Playfair, however, insisted that this time the experiment 
should first be made on two rabbits who speedily succumbed. 
" Now was not this," he asked the House, " a justifiable 
experiment on animals? Was it not worth the sacrifice of 
two Babbits to save the life of 'the most distinguished 
physician of his time, who by the introduction of chloroform 
has done so much to mitigate animal suffering? " 

No true scientist is ever content with what he has achieved, 
and accordingly the discoverer persisted in his never-ending 
search for something better than chloroform.* His butler, 
Clarke, entertained a high opinion of the properties of 
"chlory." On one occasion Clarke found Simpson in a 
Lethean sleep, the outcome of yet another experiment. 
" He'll kill himser yet wi' thae experiments ; an' he's a big 
fule, for they'll never find onything better nor chlory." 
Though Simpson was unable to speak at the time, he heard 

* Sir J. Paget "Escape from Pain; the History of a Discovery," in 
Ihe Nineteenth Century, VI, 1879, PP- 1119-32. 


distinctly his butler's remark, and it decidedly helped to rouse 
him. Among other experiments Simpson prepared an effer- 
vescing drink made with chloric ether in aerated water. As 
a beverage a dinner party pronounced it pleasant but rather 
heady. The butler gave some of it to the cook, telling her 
it was champagne. Soon after drinking it, she fell flat on 
the floor. Rushing to the dining-room, Clarke cried out, 
" Come doon, come doon, Doctor! I've pushioned the cook 
deid." Naturally Clarke fell back on his old opinion. " I 
tell ye, chlory's the best." 

No one who knows the world of science will dream that 
this wonderful discovery of chloroform was at once accepted. 
What Simpson really achieved was clearly stated by Mr. 
Lawson Tait at the British Medical Association in 1890 when 
he pointed out that " we are apt to ignore the fact that all 
our brilliant advancement to-day could never have been 
arrived at but for chloroform. We could not have developed 
the splendid work of the modern ophthalmic surgeon, and 
the modern development of abdominal surgery never would 
have been dreamed of, but for the genius and indomitable 
fighting qualities of James Young Simpson, who threshed 
out the victory of anaesthesia, and gave us the anaesthetic 
which has held its own against all comers." In 1895 in 
The Times the same surgeon, as he reviews the delicate opera- 
tions now daily performed, asks : " But where should we have 
been without anaesthetics ? No human being could undergo, in 
a conscious state, such operations as I have spoken of : I doubt 
if any human being could nerve himself to perform them. At 
the head of the list for whom I claim the true credit, I place 
the name of Simpson, the greatest genius our profession had 
produced for centuries. He fought the fight of anaesthesia." 

Theological opposition Simpson disarmed by his exegesis 
of the passages bearing on the Fall and also by the fact 
that he was fortunate enough to procure the adhesion 
of the great Dr. Chalmers, then the foremost name in the 
ranks of the ministry in Scotland. Dr. P., a medical 
practitioner, curiously enough raised the question of the 
primary curse.* Simpson was easily able to show that the 
word translated " sorrow " is truly " labour " or " toil." That 

* J. Duns, Memoir of Sir James Y. Simpson, p. 215. 


is, Adam was to eat of the ground with labour, which does not 
necessarily mean physical pain. Though the ground was 
cursed to bear thorns and thistles, yet we pull them up 
without dreaming that it is a sin. He proceeded to argue 
that as Christ in dying hath " borne our griefs and carried 
our sorrows," He definitely removed " the curse of the law, 
being made a curse for us." The deep sleep into which 
Adam fell is ingeniously introduced as an argument on behalf 
of the new use of the drug. " Those who urge, on a kind 
of religious ground, that an artificial or anaesthetic state of 
unconsciousness should not be induced merely to save frail 
humanity from the miseries and tortures of bodily pain, 
forget that we have the greatest of all examples set before 
us. He follows out this very principle of practice. I allude 
to that most singular description of the preliminaries of the 
first surgical operation ever performed on man, which is 
contained in Genesis ii. 21 : ' And the Lord God caused a deep 
sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept, and He took one of his 
ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof.' " * 

Dr. Chalmers took such a liberal interpretation of Holy 
Writ that he could not at first conceive that anyone could 
raise objections on the ground that it enabled women to 
avoid one part of the primeval curse. When Professor 
Miller at length succeeded in convincing him that such ground 
had been taken, Dr. Chalmers thought quietly for a minute or 
two, and then added that if some " small theologians " really 
took such an improper view of the subject, he should certainly 
advise Dr. Miller " not to heed them." f His attitude was 
probably the commonsense one that if God has given us the 
means of mitigating the agonies of childbirth, it is clearly 
His intention that we should employ those means. 

As Jenner in 1798 when he first announced vaccination 
had to encounter the opposition of members of his own 
profession, so Simpson had to encounter precisely the same 
kind of opposition. In the deliberate words of Dr. Duns, 
" the leaders of the opposition were professional men/' J 
and by professional men medical doctors are meant. " I dare 
not try it upon the rich," wrote a leading practitioner of 

* J. Duns, Memoir of Sir James Y. Simpson, p. 259. 

t Ibid., p. 260. 

$ Ibid., p. 248; cf. H. Laing Gordon, Sir James Simpson, p. 113. 



Dublin, " for my own sake, nor upon the poor for their 
sake, until I see something more definite about its dangers 
and safeguards/'* On February 15, 1848, a Dr. G. thought 
that chloroform " is almost sure to be used as the means of 
debauching innocent women, which goes greatly to strengthen 
the argument for Legislative interference. . . . For the 
Burkes and Hares chloroform is the readiest implement they 
could desire, if it can be got without restrict ion. " f A French 
physiologist, M. Magendie, held " it was a trivial matter to 
suffer, and a discovery, whose object was to prevent pain, 
was of slight interest only/ 1 J " Should I," writes Dr. Greig, 
" exhibit it to a thousand patients merely to prevent physio- 
logical pain, and for no other motive; and should I, in 
consequence, destroy only one, the least of them, I should feel 
disposed to clothe me in sackcloth and cast ashes on my 
head for the remainder of my days. What sufficient motive 
have I to risk the life and health of one in a thousand in 
a questionable attempt to abrogate one of the general con- 
ditions of man? " Other doctors thought that the cold steel 
of the surgeon formed a good tonic. Dr. George Wilson 
describes his own feelings when in the hands of the surgeons, 
and his powerful letter to Dr. Simpson is a painful revelation 
of what an operation used to mean. His two opening 
sentences reveal the fight Simpson had to make : " I have 
recently read, with mingled sadness and surprise, the declara- 
tions of some surgeons that anesthetics are needless luxuries, 
and that unendurable agony is the best of tonics. Those 
surgeons, I think, can scarcely have been patients of their 
brother surgeons, and jest at scars only because they never 
felt a wound; but if they remain enemies of anaesthetics after 
what you have written, I despair of convincing them of their 

Dr. Magnus Retzius, a Danish obstetrician of high 
scientific standing, in a letter of April 6, 1847, succinctly 
stated two of the main objections to the use of ether, and 
these objections were the very ones to be raised with warmth 
against the use of chloroform. These two objections were, 

* J. Duns, Memoir of Sir James Y. Simpson* p. 271. 
t Ibid., pp. 271-2. 

t E. B. Simpson, Sir James Y. Simpson, p. 65. 
Hora Subseciva, p. 377, 


first, the influence on the will of the patient, and, secondly, the 
beneficial influences of the action of a creative law. The 
first objection wore a serious form in the forties. Is there 
not danger to the individual, it was asked, in the employment 
of anything that suspends will-power or that destroys self- 
consciousness? The second objection appeared in all sorts 
of forms. One was that unnecessary interference with the 
providentially arranged process of healthy progression is 
sure sooner or later to be followed by injurious and fatal 
consequences. So Dr. Ashwell argued on March n, 1848, 
and so argued men like Bransby Cooper, Gull, and Nunn. 
Simpson's retort was irresistible. "If you refuse to interfere 
with a natural function because it is natural why do you 
ride, my dear Doctor ? you ought to walk, in order to be con- 
sistent. Chloroform does nothing but save pain, you allege. 
A carriage does nothing but save fatigue. Which is the 
more important to get done away with? your fatigue, or 
your patients' screams and tortures? To confess to you the 
truth, my blood feels chilled by the inhumanity and deliberate 
cruelty which you and some members of your profession 
openly avow. And I know that you will yet, in a few years, 
look back with horror at your present resolution of refusing 
to relieve your patients, merely because you have not yet had 
time to get rid of some old professional caprices and 
nonsensical thoughts upon the subject." * Another form 
of the second objection was the question of the Irish lady, 
" Is it not against nature to take away the pangs of labour? " 
"Is it not/' he answered, " unnatural for you to have been 
carried over from Ireland in a steamboat against wind and 

One moral aspect appealed to Simpson, and quite another 
moral aspect appealed to a Liverpool surgeon in the paper 
he read to the Liverpool Medical Society in 1847. He 
regarded the whole question as a branch of medical ethics, and 
argued against the use of chloroform on high moral ground. 
His arguments are best given in his own language. 
" I contend that we violate the boundaries of a most 
noble profession when, in our capacity as medical men, 

* E. B. Simpson, Sir James Y. Simpson^ p. 65 ; cf . J. Duns, Memoir of 
Sir James Y. Simpson, p. 257. Contrast Galen's aphorism, " Dolor dolen- 
tibus inutile est" 


we urge or seduce our fellow-creatures, for the sake of avoid- 
ing pain alone pain unconnected with danger to pass 
into a state of existence the secrets of which we know so 
little at present. I say secrets, because from the dark 
chambers of that existence we have as yet had presented to us 
but fitful and indistinct gleamings, and these so little to 
encourage the gaze of a thoughtful and modest eye, that I 
should be sorry to expose any human being unnecessarily 
much less one whom I esteemed or loved to influences whose 
nature I more than suspect. 

" What right have we, even as men, to say to our brother- 
man, ' Sacrifice thy manhood let go thy hold upon that noble 
capacity of thought and reason with which thy God hath 
endowed thee, and become a trembling coward before the 
mere presence of bodily pain ' ? 

"... In connection with this part of the subject, I was 
struck with a remark in Professor Simpson's last pamphlet, 
where it is said, 'that patients themselves will force this 
remedy upon us/ Now, I ask, is not this a mark of 
disorder ? Are they to be suffered for a moment to decide 
upon such a subject? and are we to be influenced to give up 
our judgment and place because they forsake theirs? . . . 

" I have said nothing upon the natural or physical merits of 
this preparation; that has yet to be determined by time; 
but I cannot help suggesting to those who recommend it so 
indiscriminately, how they would feel in the event of death 
being clearly traced to its use in an ordinary labour, or 
during or after some surgical operation, when it was merely 
employed to relieve pain, and when there was no danger- 
ous disease. If one death took place out of every five 
hundred, and that one was caused by the remedy, 
would it not be something to meditate upon? Besides, 
we have as yet had no time to watch other consequences; 
but one, I fear, in particular, will become more com- 
mon I mean insanity. I wish I may be mistaken, but 
I greatly fear it." * We have travelled far from this frame 
of mind when we remember that the doctor, who is also 
a psychologist, aims at re-creating the whole of the past 
life of the patient, in nervous cases, in the attempt to under- 

* J. Duns, Memoir of Sir James Y. Simpson, pp. 221-2, 


stand his complexes, and thus arrive at a cure. To-day 
Simpson's fame as the discoverer of chloroform stands 
securely. On a bead-roll of medical men with Harvey and 
Jenner he claims a place alongside them, and this claim has 
been universally conceded.* 

In gynaecology Simpson laid the foundation of the structure 
now raised. He gave new power in diagnosis, he gave new 
power in precision, and he gave new power in instruments. 
In diagnosis the uterine sound and the sponge tent bestowed 
upon the practitioner the ability to carry out treatment 
hitherto impossible. His amazing care with his patient gave 
his fellow-obstetricians a new sense of the saying of Carlyle 
that a quality of genius was the infinite capacity for taking 
pains. In the use of the obstetric forceps and of the various 
methods of ovariotomy his work was original. On December 
19, 1859, he read a paper on acupressure before the Royal 
Society of Edinburgh. Acupressure was an invention by 
which veins were pinned, and thereby the use of ligatures 
after amputations was rendered unnecessary. The point was 
the avoidance of the danger of festering flesh. Objections 
were urged by Professors Miller, Erichsen, Neudover, 
Spence, Ferguson, and his old enemy, Syme, who resented 
the intrusion of the gynaecologist into the operating theatre. 
That this idea of Simpson has perished we all know. Paracel- 
sus, when he dissented from the conclusions of an author, used 
to burn the particular writing. Syme took the pamphlet on 
acupressure by Simpson, his colleague in Edinburgh Univer- 
sity, and in the presence of his class he tore it in two, and gave 
the pieces to his assistant to be consigned to the sawdust box 
with other surgical remains. A young student, Joseph Lister 
by name, aimed at achieving by antiseptic treatment what 
Simpson achieved by acupressure. At the Dublin meeting 
Simpson had made some disparaging remarks on the use 
of antiseptics. Unguardedly Lister wrote to The Lancet a 
letter in which occurred the following passage : " The truth 
is, that the treatment which I advocate has arrived at the 
second stage of its progress in professional confidence. So 
lately as the Association meeting in Dublin a feeble attempt 

* It was estimated that no less than 80,000 a year was lost to the 
hotel, lodging-, and boarding-house keepers of Edinburgh when he died; 
cf. H. Laing Gordon, Sir James Simpson, p. 163. 


was made to decry it as useless ; and now it is represented as 
not original. Trusting that such unworthy cavils will not 
impede the adoption of a useful procedure, I am, Sir, yours, 
etc." * 

In a temperate letter of June 16, 1865, Simpson urged 
upon Lister the merits of acupressure, f We fear that 
Simpson in an anonymous letter to the Edinburgh Daily 
Review attacked Lister on the ground that his work had 
been antedated by Dr. Lemaire of Paris and by others. 
Lister had never read a line of Lemaire's and indeed had 
never heard of him. In The Lancet Simpson continued his 
attack, accusing Lister of almost culpable ignorance.^ The 
writer did bring out the fact that Lemaire had employed 
carbolic acid in the treatment of compound fractures, wounds, 
and abscesses. He brought it out, however, in such a fashion 
that the principle on which Listerian treatment was based 
was ignored. In 1867 Simpson occupied the position of a 
field-marshal in the medical army and Lister was the latest 
recruit. The greeting the senior officer extended was any- 
thing but friendly. Simpson himself had suffered so much 
at the hands of objectors that one would have thought that 
he would have had a fellow-feeling for Lister. 

* Sir R. Godlee, Lord Lister, p. 200; cf Lancet, 1867, II, p. 444. 
t Sir R. Godlee, Lord Lister, pp* 201-2. 
j Lancet, 1867, II, p. 546. 



AT the beginning of the nineteenth century geologists were 
divided into two hostile camps who waged against each other 
a keen and even embittered contest. On the one hand were 
the followers of James Hutton of Edinburgh, a man of a 
singularly original and active mind, called from him Hut- 
tonians, sometimes also Vulcanists or Plutonists; on the 
other, the disciples of A. G. Werner of Freiburg in Saxony, 
who were naturally called Wernerians or Neptunists.* The 
strife lasted long, and deflected the current of geological 
thought. The Huttonians maintained, as their fundamental 
doctrine, that the facts of our planet in the past are to be 
explained by what we can learn of it at present. The first 
condition of the earth and all its subsequent phases they 
regarded as outside their scope. Hutton declared with all 
the emphasis at his command that the rocks around us can 
never reveal to us any trace of the beginning of things. As 
nature to him never made a leap, he summoned the fall of 
rain, the flow of rivers, the dash of waves, the slowly-crum- 
bling decay of mountain, valley, and shore as witnesses of 
the slow and silent fashion in which even the most stupendous 
changes are wrought. Living in a land devoid of fossil re- 
mains of plants and animals, devoid of such rocks as are 
found in Italy, Hutton ignored the long succession of life upon 
the earth just as he ignored the fact that nature to our sur- 
prise sometimes does make a leap. Still, he ascertained that 
the great mass of the rocks which form the visible part of the 
crust of the earth was formed under the sea, as sand, gravel, 

* For a recent reminiscence of the strife, cf. Sir A. Geikie, A Long 
Life's Work, p. 143. 



and mud are laid down there now; and that these ancient 
sediments were consolidated by subterranean heat, to be con- 
torted and upheaved one day into dry land. He found that 
portions of the rocks had been in a fused state, establishing 
the former molten condition of granite and of many other 
crystalline rocks, and he maintained that the combined influ- 
ence of subterranean heat and pressure upon sedimentary 
rocks could consolidate and mineralise them, thus converting 
them into crystalline masses. 

If it is the mark of genius to unite in one common origin 
phenomena very different in their nature, then James Hutton 
was a genius. He opened out a new path that has been 
trodden by many men since. Of course he exaggerated the 
extent to which his conceptions could be applied, but is not 
this the commonest fault of genius? Hutton himself was 
as strong in principles as he was weak in details. His fol- 
lowers were deficient in accurate mineralogical knowledge. 
In spite of this, the whole of modern geology testifies to the 
influence of the Huttonian school. 

From his infancy Abraham Gottlob Werner was familiar 
with stones. When he did his lessons with proficiency, his 
father used to allow him to look over a small collection of 
minerals which he kept in a box. As an old man Werner 
could vividly recall the very minerals that were the play- 
things of his childhood various ores and spars, as well as 
some varieties of which his father did not know the names. 
Naturally he betook himself to the Mining Academy at 
Freiburg, visiting all the chief Saxon mines, especially those 
of note in the Freiburg district. He came to know his own 
locality intimately, satisfying himself by repeated excursions 
of the order and history of the rocks in it. Jowett used to 
maintain that logic was neither a science nor an art but simply 
a dodge. Werner held some such opinion, for despite the 
laws of logic he reasoned from the particular to the universal, 
concluding that the various rocks of the rest of the globe 
were modelled on those of Saxony. Unlike the Huttonians, 
he felt impelled to begin at the beginning. He supposed that 
the earth had been originally covered with the ocean, in 
which the materials of the minerals were dissolved. Out of 
this ocean he conceived that the various rocks were precipi- 
tated in the same order as that in which he found those of 


Saxony to lie. Obviously, on the retirement of the ocean, 
certain universal formations spread over all the globe, and 
assumed at the surface various irregular shapes as they 

Werner enjoyed the advantage of being a good mineral- 
ogist Previous cosmological systems produced chaos, not 
the cosmos of the Saxon geologist. His system was as neat 
and precise as he himself was. Besides, it could be readily 
applied to other countries. Observations had been discon- 
nected, isolated, and heterogeneous. Under Werner's skilful 
method they proved to be connected, unisolated, and homo- 
geneous. What Linnaeus effected for botany he effected for 
mineralogy. This subject is narrow save in the hands of a 
Werner. With him mineralogy embraced the whole of 
human history, the whole pursuits and tendencies of mankind. 
From a few pieces of stone, placed almost at random on the 
table before him, he would pour forth an eloquent exposition 
of the influence of minerals and rocks upon the geography 
and topography of the earth's surface. He could contrast the 
mountainous scenery of the granites and schists with the less 
wild landscapes of the sandstones and limestones. Was not 
the development of the arts and the industries guided by the 
distribution of minerals? Were not the successes of a 
Napoleon or a Wellington dependent not on their strategic 
skill but on the distribution of minerals? In fact, Werner 
anticipated the school of political economists of our own day 
who trace everything in history to s. d. It seemed in 
Werner's day as if efficient training for the affairs of life 
was only to be found at the Mining School of Freiburg. 

There were undoubted weaknesses in the Wernerian school 
of geology. In what school of thought are there not weak- 
nesses? He made the mistake of transferring the formation 
and the aqueous origin of Saxon rocks to explain the forma- 
tion of all rocks. Still, he had grasped a seminal idea in his 
chronological grouping of strata and had noticed that the 
remains of plants and animals imbedded in the strata became 
fewer in number, and more unlike living forms, the older 
the rocks in which they occur. The theory an entirely 
unsupported one of a primeval universal ocean formed the 
basis of his teaching. From the prominence given to the 
sea in his geognosy, his followers were styled Neptunists, 


while those of Hutton, who stressed the potency of the 
internal fire of the earth, were dubbed Plutonists or Vul- 
canists. Obviously, there is this question to be answered 
by the Wernerians, What has become of the immense volume 
of water that once covered and stood so high over the whole 
earth? Robert Jameson, a typical Scots Wernerian, an- 
nounced that " although we cannot give any very satisfactory 
answer to this question, it is evident that the theory of the 
diminution of the water remains equally probable. We may 
be convinced of its truth, and are so, although we may not be 
able to explain it. To know from observation that a great 
phenomenon took place, is a very different thing from ascer- 
taining how it happened."* The moment we examine this 
answer we see that it resolves itself into a scientific creed : I 
believe in Werner and you had better believe in him too. 
The gravamen against this creed is that it announces as a body 
of ascertained truth conclusions about which it was held that 
there could be no further doubt or dispute, and such a position 
implicitly denies the possibility of progress. 

The unreasoning rivalry of the Wernerians and the Hut- 
tonians was at its height when Charles Lyell was born on 
November 14, 1797, in the family mansion of Kinnordy, 
Forfarshire. His father was a botanist with diverse 
interests. He is another example of that hereditary genius 
on which Galton placed such stress. " The front of heaven/' 
as Lyell himself wrote in a spirited fragment of auto- 
biography, was not " full of fiery shapes at his nativity,"f but 
the season was so exceptionally warm that his mother's bed- 
room-window was kept open all night an appropriate birth- 
omen for the future geologist, who had a firmer faith than 
some of his successors in the value of work in the open air. 
Scots by birth, English by education, Lyell was to turn out 
cosmopolitan in his range over the earth. For twenty-eight 
years his family lived on the edge of the New Forest, a 
situation that afforded the lad many opportunities of gratify- 
ing his taste for watching the habits of aquatic insects. " I 
had," he confesses, " no companion to share this hobby with 
me, no one to encourage me in following it up, yet my love 
for it continued always to increase, and it afforded me a 

* R. Jameson, Geognosy, p. 82. 

t Homer, Life of Sir C. Lyell, I, p. 2. 


most varied source of amusement/'* Like Darwin at 
Shrewsbury, he received " from almost everyone else beyond 
my home, either ridicule, or hints that the pursuits of other 
boys were more manly."f Mr. Lytton Strachey, in his 
curious study of Thomas Arnold of Rugby, seems to imagine 
that the boys of our day enjoy considerably less elasticity in 
their amusements than those of Arnold's day. A study of 
the early life of either Lyell or of Darwin would, on this 
point at least, considerably disabuse him. To be sure, his 
essay would not have quite so much point : it would, however, 
have a good deal more truth. 

As a lad Lyell had met with a copy of Bakewell's 
Geology on the shelves of his father's library, and this 
induced him while he was an undergraduate at Exeter Col- 
lege, Oxford, to attend in 1817 the lectures of Professor 
Buckland, who then enjoyed the height of his popularity. 
On July 28 of that year he wrote to his father, and his letter 
remarkable as that of a lad of nineteen contains the germ 
of his future book on the Principles of Geology. "Dr. 
Arnold and I examined yesterday the pit which is dug out for 
the foundation of the Nelson monument, and found that the 
first bed of shingle is eight feet down. Now this was the 
last stratum brought by the sea; all since was driven up by 
wind and kept there by the ' rest-harrow ' and other plants. 
It is mere sand. Therefore, thirty-five years ago the Deens 
were nearly as low as the last stratum left by the sea; and as 
the wind would naturally have begun adding from the very 
first, it is clear that within fifty years the sea flowed over 
that part. This, even Mr. T. allows, is a strong argument 
in favour of the recency of the changes. Dr. Arnold sur- 
prised me by telling me that he thought that the Straits of 
Dover were formerly joined, and that the great current and 
tides of the North Sea being held back, the sea flowed higher 
over these parts than now. If he had thought a little more 
he would have found no necessity for all this, for all those 
towns on this eastern coast, which have no river god to 
stand their friend, have necessarily been losing in the same 
proportion as Yarmouth gains viz. Cromer, Pakefield, Dun- 
wich, Aldborough, etc. etc. With Dunwich I believe it is 
* Horner, Life of Sir C. Lyell, I, p. 14. t Ibid., p. 16. J Ibid., p. 43. 


At twenty Lyell had seized hold of the germinal notion 
that was to change the future of geology, at the same age at 
which Pasteur became immersed in the puzzle of the right- 
and left-handed crystals of tartaric acid. At eighteen 
Perkin discovered the first aniline dye, mauve. At the same 
age Einstein conceived the idea of his theory of relativity. 
At twenty-two van't Hoff and at twenty-seven Le Bel simul- 
taneously carried the ideas of Pasteur on his crystals a 
marked stage along the road to completer knowledge. At 
twenty-three Emil Fischer discovered what led ultimately 
to the discarding of the type theory. At twenty-four 
Svante Arrhenius devised the electrolytic theory of 
solution that all salts are decomposed in water into positive 
and negative elements. At the same age Berthelot dis- 
covered his synthesis of benzene compounds. At twenty-six 
that brilliant scientist Henry Moseley found a way to ana- 
lyse the elements by the reflection of X-rays from their 
atoms, one of the most important generalisations in the his- 
tory of chemistry since Mendeleef's Periodic Law. What a 
bullet in Gallipoli cost us, we can read in the measured esti- 
mate Sir J. J. Thomson furnished of Moseley 's career in the 
Transactions of the Royal Society. At twenty-eight Niels 
Bohr conceived the atom as a sort of solar system in which 
the sun is represented by a nucleus of positive electricity 
and the planets by particles of negative electricity revolving 
around it with astonishing speed. At twenty-eight Kekule 
formulated ideas which led to the discarding of the prevalent 
type theory. At twenty-nine Crookes discovered thallium, 
a new metal by a new method, that of the spectroscope. 

The undergraduate's father was a man of means, and for- 
tunate is it for geology that this was so. For during the 
long vacation of 1818 young Lyell accompanied his father, 
mother, and two eldest sisters on a continental tour. They 
drove in a ramshackle carriage. The slow pace of the car- 
riage enabled Lyell inter alia to note the nodular flints in the 
limestone of the Jura, the contrast between these mountains 
and the Grampians of his native land, the rapid advance of 
the glaciers in general and of the Glacier des Bossons in par- 
ticular, the action of the torrent of the Alpbach and its effects 
in carrying liquid mud and shattered slate. If we agree with 
Heine that what we see depends on our powers of sight> 


then it is clear that the possibilities of the powers of this 
young man were in excess of those of most men of his 

On his return to Exeter College, he found that few of his 
old acquaintances had come up after the long vacation. " It 
will be less difficult/' he thinks, " therefore, to acquire what 
Paley so strongly recommended to his pupils, ' courage to be 
alone/ "* This courage Lyell readily acquired, and he 
acquired it with all the more ease because he was forming the 
purpose to devote his life to the furtherance of geological 
discovery. In the spring of 1827 his ideas as to his future 
work appear to be assuming a definite form. To Dr. Gideon 
A. Mantell he writes that he has been reading Lamarck, and 
is not convinced by that author's theories of the development 
of species, " which would prove that men may have come 
from the ourang-outang," though he makes this admission : 
" After all, what changes a species may really undergo ! 
How impossible will it be to distinguish and lay down a line, 
beyond which some of the so-called extinct species have 
never passed into recent ones. That the earth is now quite 
so old as he [i.e. Lamarck] supposes, has long been my 
creed, and I will try before six months are over to convert 
the readers of the Quarterly to that heterodox opinion. . . . 
I am going to write in confirmation of ancient causes having 
been the same as modern, and to show that those plants and 
animals which we know are becoming preserved now, are the 
same as were formerly preserved. E.g. scarcely any insects 
now, no lichens, no mosses, etc., ever get to places where 
they can become imbedded in strata. But quadrupeds do in 
lakes, reptiles in estuaries, corals in reefs, fish in sea, plants 
wherever there is water, salt or fresh, etc. etc. Now have 
you ever in Lewes levels found a bird's skeleton or any 
cetacea? If not, why in Tilgate and the Weald beds? In 
our Scotch marl, though water birds abound in those lakes, 
we meet with no birds in the marl ; and they must be at least 
as rare as in old freshwater formations, for they are much 
worked and examined. You see the drift of my argument 
ergo, mamalia existed when the oolite and coal, etc., were 
formed." f There were these differences between successive 

* Horner, Life of Sir C. Lyell, I, p. 52. 
t Ibid., p. 169. 


fauna. What was their origin? What was the cause of 
their extinction ? Answers to questions like these constituted 
the prelude to the understanding of the relations between 
existing genera and species. 

As these ideas were revolving in the mind of Lyell he was 
fortunate to meet a man slightly senior to himself, one 
Roderick Murchison by name. Murchison had served at 
Vimeiro, and had shared in Sir John Moore's Spanish cam- 
paign and his famous retreat to Corunna. On the conclusion 
of the war he married a thoughtful and affectionate woman 
who so altered him that he pursued science with as much 
ardour as he had formerly pursued the fox. Healthy and 
wealthy, he became wise with the wisdom, of geological lore. 
His strength lay neither in the philosophic spirit nor in the 
imaginative power that marked out Lyell, but in his rapid 
comprehension of the leading features in the geology of a 
district. He possessed a patient and sagacious faculty of 
gathering facts and marshalling them, thereby paving the 
way for Lyell to draw conclusions from these facts. Mur- 
chison never quite escaped from the influence of the Wer- 
nerian school. To the end of his long life he maintained that 
the present inequalities of the land are due to subterranean 
action. In the Silurian system he certainly confused the Llan- 
dovery rocks with the Caradoc sandstone. As one of the main 
articles in his scientific creed was the occurrence of former 
convulsions of nature, he inevitably offered stout opposition 
to the views of the evolutionists. There were limitations to 
Murchison's outlook, but some of these limitations supple- 
mented deficiencies in the equipment of Lyell. With Mr. 
and Mrs. Murchison, in May 1828, he toured by carriage 
through Clermont Ferrand, one of the most interesting geo- 
logical districts in Europe. Visiting Pontgibaud and the 
gorge of the Sioul, they discovered a section that afforded 
them a demonstration that a lava stream had dammed up 
the course of a river by flowing down into its valley, and 
had converted the part above into a lake. This in turn 
had been drained as the river had carved for itself a new 
channel, partly in the basalt, partly in the underlying gneiss. 
Was it not obvious that a river could cut out a path for 
itself? Was it not equally obvious that such a force was 
still in operation? Surely, this was Lyell's conclusion, such 


forces, given time enough, could sculpture the features of the 
crust of the earth. So saw Lyell, though Murchison saw 
quite otherwise. At the Euganean Hills the Murchisons 
and Lyell at the end of a four months' elaborate investigation 

Lyell wended his way southward to Naples and Sicily. On 
the coast of the Maritime Alps he encountered huge beds of 
conglomerate, parted one from another by laminated shales 
full of fossils, most of which were identical with creatures 
still living in the Mediterranean. These masses attained a 
thickness of 800 feet, and were displayed in the sides of 
a valley fifteen miles in length. Did not the torrents from 
the Maritime Alps, as they plunged into the Mediterranean, 
build up these masses of stratified pebbles? Did not similar 
torrents form the conglomerates and sandstones of Angus in 
his native country? If rain and rivers could excavate val- 
leys, the sea could slowly raise fossiliferous deposits. One 
outcome of the tour was the three papers Murchison and he 
wrote. On January 2.1, 1829, he tells his sister Marianne: 
" My letters from geological friends are very satisfactory, 
as to the unusual interest excited in the Geological Society by 
our paper on the excavation of valleys in Auvergne. Seventy 
persons present the second evening, and a warm debate. 
Buckland and Greenough furious, contra Scrope, Sedgwick, 
and Warburton supporting us."* Buckland was an eloquent 
expounder of the view that the remains of animals found in 
caves afford the means of judging the inhabitants of the 
earth before the universal deluge. Greenough was the true 
founder and first president of the Geological Society, yet he 
displayed an obstinate scepticism towards new opinions, being 
a kind of staunch geological Tory. Poulett Scrope believed 
in putting notions to the test. When he put Werner's ideas 
to the test of the evidence afforded by nature in the case of 
volcanoes, he proved them to be mere " idols of the cave." 
Sedgwick was an equal believer in laying up a store of facts 
from which he could extract brilliant deductions. War- 
burton was the very soul of caution. 

The reception of this joint paper proved to Lyell the need 
of accumulating further facts in support of his views, and 
this meant more travelling. In later years he held : " We 
* Horner, Life of Sir C. Lyell, I, p. 238. 


must preach up travelling as the first, second, and third 
requisites for a modern geologist."* What he preached he 
practised, and accordingly we find him climbing Vesuvius, 
seeing there for the first time the lava-streams and piles of 
scoria of a volcano still active. The sections of the old crater 
of Somma furnished a link between the living present and the 
remote past between Italy and Auvergne. Visiting Ischia, 
he ascended its old volcano, Monte Epomeo, to find at a 
height of two thousand feet above the sea marine shells 
which belonged to the same class as those in the lower regions 
of Ischia. He discovered these fossils, and at once it struck 
him, Had not the land been elevated two thousand feet with- 
out any appreciable change in the fauna inhabiting the Medi- 
terranean? Was there not here another proof of the slow 
work of nature? In spite of the bad roads, the poor fare, 
and the miserable accommodation he met with, the heart of 
the geologist was rejoicing, for his results, as he told Mur- 
chison, " exceeded his warmest expectations in the way of 
modern analogies." On February 26, 1829, he confides in 
his sister Caroline : " I will build up a system on data never 
before obtained, by comparing the contents of the present 
with more ancient seas, and the latter with each other."f 

To the older school nature was always making a leap, 
whereas to Lyell she seldom, if ever, made a leap. At all 
times and in all places, he held, nature remained constant in 
her operation. In April 1829 he tells Gideon Mantell: " A 
splendid meeting last night. Sedgwick in the chair. Cony- 
beare's paper on Valley of Thames, directed against Messrs. 
Lyell and Murchison's paper, was read in part. Buckland 
present to defend the ' Diluvialists/ as Conybeare styles his 
sect, and us he terms ' Fluvialists/ Greenough assisted us 
by making an ultra speech on the importance of modern 
causes. No river, he said, within times of history, has 
deepened its channel one foot! It was great fun, for he 
said, ' Our opponents say, " Give us time, and we will work 
wonders." So said the wolf in the fable to the lamb : " Why 
do you disturb the water? " " I do not : you are further up 
the stream than I." " But your father did." " He never was 
here." " Then your grandfather did, so I will murder you. 

* Horncr, Life of Sir C. Lyell, I, p. 233. 
f Ibid., I, p. 252. 


Give me time, and I will murder you." So say the Fluvial- 
ists!' Roars of laughter, in which Greenough joined 
against himself. What a choice simile! Murchison and I 
fought stoutly, and Buckland was very piano. Conybeare's 
memoir is not strong by any means. He admits three deluges 
before the Noachian and Buckland adds God knows how 
many catastrophes besides, so we have driven them out of 
the Mosaic record fairly/'* 

To Mantell on June 7, 1829, he writes : " The last dis- 
charge of Conybeare's artillery, served by the great Oxford 
engineer against the Fluvialists, as they are pleased to term 
us, drew upon them on Friday a sharp volley of musketry 
from all sides, and such a broadside at the finale from Sedg- 
wick, as was enough to sink the Reliquce Diluviance f f r 
ever, and make the second volume shy of venturing out to 
sea."J In a letter of June 10, 1829, he continues the account 
of the Diluvialist v. Fluvialist controversy, ending his letter 
with these words : " I am preparing a general work on the 
younger epochs of the earth's history, which I hope to be out 
with next spring. I begin with Sicily, which has almost 
entirely risen from the sea, to the height of nearly 4,000 feet, 
since all the present animals existed in the Mediterranean! " 

The summer of 1829 Lyell spent at Kinnordy exploring the 
quarries of Kirriemuir and the neighbouring districts and 
encouraging the workmen to look out for the remains of 
plants and the scales of fishes. What he was doing at home 
Murchison and Sedgwick were doing abroad. For they 
were exploring the geological structure of the Eastern Alps 
and the basin of the Danube. Throughout their labours 
they kept in touch with Lyell, who derived satisfaction from 
obtaining results that he felt must keep Murchison sound in 
the uniformitarian faith and must turn Sedgwick to that 
faith. On October 31, 1829, Lyell writes: " Sedgwick and 
Murchison are just returned, the former full of magnificent 
views. Throws overboard all the diluvian hypothesis; is 
vexed he ever lost time about such a complete humbug ; says 
he lost two years by having started as a Wernerian. He says 
primary rocks are not primary, but, as Hutton supposed, 

* Horner, Life of Sir C. Lyell, I, p. 252. 

t Buqkland's book bore this title. 

i Horner, Life of Sir C. Lyell, I, p. 253. 

ibid., i, p. 254. : 


some igneous, some altered secondary. Mica schist in Alps 
lies over organic remains. No rock in the Alps older than 
lias! Much of Buckland's dashing paper on Alps wrong. 
A formation (marine) found at foot of Alps, between 
Danube and Rhine, thicker than all the English secondaries 
united. Munich is in it. Its age probably between chalk 
and our oldest tertiaries. I have this moment received a 
note from C. Prevost by Murchison. He has heard with 
delight and surprise of their Alpine novelties, and alluding to 
them and other recent discoveries, he says, ' Comme nous 
allons rire de nos vieilles idees ! Comme nous allons nous 
moquer de nous-memes! ' At the same time he says, ' If in 
your book you are too hard on us on this side the Channel, 
we will throw at you some of old Brongniart's " metric and 
peponary blocks/' which float in that general and universal 
diluvium, and have been there " depuis le grand jour qui a 
separe, d'une maniere si tranchee, les temps ante-des-temps 
Post-Diluviens." ' " * It is inevitably a triumphant letter, 
though all the statements in it have not been borne out by 
subsequent investigation. Beyond all doubt there are many 
rocks in the Alps older than the Trias. The modification and 
mineral changes in the Secondary rocks of the Alps are quite 
different from the metamorphism of the crystalline schists, 
which are the older rocks. 

The more he investigated the complicated processes by 
which the rocky crust of the earth has been built up and by 
which the present varied contour of the surface of the earth 
has been produced, the more Lyell was satisfied that the slow, 
yet persistent, operations of nature provided an all-sufficient 
explanation. The study of the existing economy of the 
world revealed the history of our planet in early ages. Nor 
would he allow other matters to divert him from his self- 
imposed task. He was so engrossed with the writing of his 
magnum opus, Principles of Geology: being an Attempt 
to explain the Former Changes of the Earth's Surface 
by Reference to Causes now in Operation, that he 
refused to stand for the vacant chair of Geology and Miner- 
alogy in the newly-established London University. He 
meant it to convince the ordinary reader that there was an 
absolute uniformity in the order of nature. It was a con- 
* Horner, Life of Sir C. Lyell, I, p. 256. 


elusion entirely opposed to the prevailing system of geo- 
logical thought, but it was a conclusion to which he had been 
forced by the evidence he had gathered during the course of 
his repeated travels. He fully expected, as he wrote his 
pages, that the publication of his book would bring a hornet's 
nest about his head, but he had determined that, when his first 
volume was attacked, he would waste no money on pamph- 
leteering, but would work steadily at the second volume. 
Then, if the book was a success, he would labour at the 
second edition, for " controversy is interminable work." 

Henry Milman had just published his History of the 
Jews, and by this book he had incurred the disapproval of 
the orthodox, who resented the idea of the past of the chosen 
nation being treated like the history of any other nation. Its 
publication pleased Murchison, who was far-seeing enough to 
note that Milman's volumes would create a diversion in 
Lyell's favour. For he was attempting to treat geology like 
any other science, relying entirely on the evidence of the facts, 
not on pre-conceived theories. Poulett Scrope was to review 
Lyell's two volumes in The Quarterly Review, and in a letter 
of June 14, 1830, to him he insists that the climate of a 
region depends not only upon its latitude, but also upon its 
geography, the distribution of land and sea, and the coinci- 
dence of time between zoological and geographical changes 
in the past. These, he thought, were the most novel ideas 
in the book. 

No one can peruse the epoch-making three volumes, which 
appeared from 1830 to 1833, without perceiving many new 
ideas. The strength of them lies not in their details but 
in the views so convincingly elaborated. Was the method 
of nature uniform, a process? Was it sudden, a leap? The 
longer he looked facts in the face, the more they demonstrated 
to him the gradual process by which nature proceeded. 
Deluges were the favourite resort of the catastrophic geolo- 
gist, and deluges Lyell could not discover on a universal 
scale in the past. He laughs in one of his letters at the idea 
of a French geologist that a sudden upheaval of South 
America could have been the cause of the Noachian flood. 
True, there were, as the catastrophists urged, breaks in the 
succession of the strata, but these breaks were, in his judg- 
ment, largely local in character. In the record of the rocks 


he could discern no signs of a general destruction of living 
:reatures. In a word, geology afforded no corroboration of 
the Mosaic cosmogony. Lyell's task was the interpretation 
[)f nature, and his clue to the handiwork of nature in the 
present was the study of it in the past history of the earth. 

The Wernerians faced the problem of origins. Such a 
problem Lyell refused to face. He told Poulett Scrope that 
" probably there was a beginning it is a metaphysical ques- 
tion, worthy a theologian probably there will be an end. 
Species, as you say, have begun and ended but the analogy is 
faint and distant. Perhaps it is an analogy, but all I say is, 
there are, as Hutton said, ' no signs of a beginning, no pros- 
pect of an end/ Herschel thought the nebulae became worlds. 
Davy said in his last book, ' It is always more probable that 
the new stars become visible, and then invisible, and pre- 
existed, than that they are created and extinguished.' So I 
;hink. All I ask is, that at any given period of the past, don't 
stop inquiry when puzzled by refuge in a beginning, which is 
ill one with ' another state of nature/ as it appears to me. But 
;here is no harm in your attacking me, provided you point out 
:hat it is the proof I deny, not the probability of a beginning. 
Mark, too, my argument, that we are called upon to say in 
*ach case, ' Which is now most probable, my ignorance of all 
possible effects of existing causes/ or that ' the beginning ' 
s the cause of this puzzling phenomenon? "* 

When Macaulay had finished his history, he at once took 
town his Thucydides. The master of the present turned to 
:he master of the past. Lyell took down his master figura- 
ively, for he once more travelled abroad to note if the exami- 
lation of fresh facts would confirm or destroy his leading 
lypothesis. He describes the scenery of the Pyrenees, con- 
Tasting it with that of the Alps, and analysing the causes 
)f this contrast. Moving on to Spain, he visits Olot, a 
egion of extinct volcanoes. Poulett Scrope, the well- 
oiown authority on volcanoes, had advised this visit, and 
lere Lyell manifests his caution in refusing to assign dates 
for eruption in bygone ages unless remains of quadrupeds 
>r other organic substances be found. Evidence, not Wer- 
lerian theory this is what he insistently demands. In the 
:ourse of his wanderings he met with remains suggesting 
* Horner, Life of Sir C. Lyell, I, p. 269. 


the gradual approximation of the fauna preserved in the 
Tertiary deposits to that which still exists, and tending to 
settle, as he hopes " for ever, the question whether species 
come in all at a batch or are always going out and coming in." 
Could he oppose the diluvialists by seeing any instance where 
nature allowed visible growth? Joyfully he heard of the 
eruption of Graham's Island. A few months before there 
has been a depth of eighty fathoms, as sounding on the site 
of this island proved. Now the cone " is 200 feet above 
water and is still growing. Here is a hill 680 feet, with 
hope of more, and the probability of much having been done 
before the Britannia sounded." Nature herself was coming 
round to his side by bestowing " her approbation of the 
advocates of modern causes! Was the cross which Con- 
stantine saw in the heavens a more clear indication of the 
approaching conversion of a wavering world?" Precisely 
so, but it also suggested another consideration, Does nature 
make a leap? Yet this question does not seem to have 
crossed the mind of Lyell. His evidence suggested proof 
of his hypothesis, and, like many another investigator, it 
never occurred to him that this evidence when scanned by 
eyes other than his might point in quite a contrary direction. 
During his tour he met that staunch Wernerian, Jean 
Francois d'Aubuisson de Voisins, and the Frenchman fore- 
saw that the contempt manifested by the Huttonians for 
mineralogy must impede the progress of geology. 
D'Aubuisson came to find out that Wernerian conception of 
primitive rocks was a pure myth. Lyell was so strongly 
possessed by his big idea that he records that D'Aubuisson 
" thinks the interest of the subject greatly destroyed by our 
new invention, especially our having almost cut mineralogy 
and turned it into a zoological science. In short, like all 
men, he dislikes that which destroys his early and youthful 
associations, and he has too much to do as an engineer to 
keep up with the subject."* No one who knows the state of 
geology, in England at any rate, from 184010 1870 can avoid 
noticing that the forecast of D'Aubuisson proved painfully 
correct. Nor were the controversial articles directed by Elie 
de Beaumont and others against his system more to Lyell's 
taste. That there is an odium scientificum Edward Jenner 
* Horner, Life of Sir C. Lyell, I, p. 275. 


and Sir James Simpson attest. That there is an odium 
geologicum Lyell was soon to find out. 

The years 1830 to 1833 were marked by the publication 
of the first edition, in three volumes, of Lyell's Principles of 
Geology: being an Attempt to explain the Former Changes of 
the Earth's Surface by Reference to Causes now in Operation. 
His theory is said to have been suggested by the gradual 
growth of the British Constitution. For five years its 
author had steadily concentrated on its production, embody- 
ing in it facts from physical phenomena, facts from botany 
and zoology as well as facts from geology, in all parts of 
the world and from observers of all ages. By wealth of 
illustration just as much as by cogent reasoning, he drove 
home the doctrine of uniformity on all who read his pages. 
His three volumes deserve to be styled by that much-abused 
adjective, epoch-making. To adapt the tribute Lord Bryce 
paid to Lord Acton, Lyell wrote like a man inspired, seeming 
as if, from some mountain summit high in air, he saw beneath 
him the far-winding path of geological evolution from dim 
Cimmerian shores of prehistoric shadow into the fuller yet 
broken and fitful light of modern time. Unlike either 
Sedgwick or Murchison, he added no new chapters to geo- 
logical history. His function was far different, for he was 
the philosopher of geology, possessing the rare faculty of 
perceiving the connection of scattered facts with each other. 
He wrote little, but his ideas have been as the grain of mus- 
tard seed in the parable. As A. C. Ramsay once remarked to 
Sir Archibald Geikie, " We collect the data, and Lyell teaches 
us to comprehend the meaning of them/' Lyell's destruc- 
tion of catastrophism in geology prepared the mind for Dar- 
win's destruction of catastrophism in the animal kingdom. 
As Blaise Pascal points out, " Qu'on ne dit pas que je 
n'ai rien dit de nouveau: la disposition des matieres est 
nouvelle." For originality lies as much in perception of 
opportunity or fresh disposition of material as in invention. 
Lyell saw, perhaps too vividly, the new conception of uni- 
formity that was looming along the horizon of the geological 
world. The essential point is not that he saw too vividly, 
but that he saw at all. There were great masters of geology 
at home and abroad from 1820 to 1840, the very generation 
when Lyell was doing his most illuminating work. On its 


bead-roll were such men as Sedgwick and Murchison, De la 
Beche and Elie de Beaumont, Von Buch and Boue, Omalius 
d'Halloy. Before his fourth decade was completed Lyell 
assumed the front rank even with such formidable competi- 
tors. The influence of the catastrophic school of geologists 
had long been dwindling when the publication of the Prin- 
ciples administered the coup de grace. 

Edition after edition of Lyell's magnum opus was called 
for, and with the increase of knowledge he had " found it 
necessary," as he states in his preface, " entirely to rewrite 
some chapters, and recast others, and to modify or omit some 
passages given in former editions." Naturally he was 
delighted to enforce the doctrine of uniformitarianism with 
examples produced from forces still at work upon the crust 
of the earth. The accounts of Vesuvius and Etna, of the 
vicissitudes of climate in the past, the connection between 
climate and the geography of the surface of the earth, the 
influence of astronomical causes on changes of climate these 
were among the matters considerably reinforced by 
the additional facts the author was able to adduce. There 
were additions of serious importance. Convinced by the 
biological evidence of Charles Darwin and A. R. Wallace 
and by the botanical evidence of Sir J. D. Hooker, Lyell at 
last saw his way to get rid of the objections raised by 
Lamarck, and champions the theory of evolution. The 
historian of the early history of geology will still find in the 
first five chapters an account which is not superseded by the 
works of Sir Archibald Geikie or of K, A. von Zittel. With 
the process of revision the Principles lost not a little of their 
literary charm. For books, like children, are apt to lose some 
of their beauty as they increase in size and strength. 

Like all men who conceive an original idea, Lyell pushed 
it far, very far indeed. The Wernerian school had urged 
that practically there were nothing but catastrophes, so now 
the Lyellian school was to urge that there was nothing but 
uniformity. This school attained a dominant position with 
Lyell as its high priest, and its creed was almost universally 
believed, notably in England. The high priest taught us all 
to substitute for catastrophes glacial action, the slow denu- 
dation by rivers, subsidence and elevation. In a word, there 
is an orderly process. Uniformitarianism accounts for 


many matters, but does it account for all? Does it a 
for the volcanoes as it does for the glaciers, for the aberra- 
tions of the atoms? Such questions suggest themselves, 
though we can quite understand Darwin pronouncing in his 
autobiography the verdict that " the science of geology is 
enormously indebted to Lyell more so, I believe, than to any 
other man who ever lived." * Galileo Galilei, according to 
tradition, maintained that the earth still moved, and in a 
far different sense Lyell demonstrated that this truth was the 
very foundation of his system. According to Terence, 
Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto. Adapting this 
obiter dictum, Lyell held that though he was a geologist, yet 
he regarded pothing in physics and natural history as foreign 
to his purpose. 

In March 1831 Lyell informed Gideon Mantell that he 
had just been elected Professor of Geology at King's Col- 
lege, London, then recently founded by members of the 
Church of England. The electors to this chair were the 
Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishops of London and Lan- 
daff, and two " strictly orthodox doctors/' D'Oyley and Lons- 
dale. The Bishop of Landaff showed some hesitation, but 
the Rev. W. D. Conybeare, though opposed to Lyell's theories 
on scientific grounds, vouched for his orthodoxy. The pre- 
lates declared "that they considered some of my doctrines 
startling enough, but could not find that they were come by 
otherwise than in a straightforward manner, and (as I ap- 
peared to think) logically deducible from the facts, so that 
whether the facts were true or not, or my conclusions logical 
or otherwise, there was no reason to infer that I had made 
my^ theory from any hostile feeling towards revelation/ 1 f 
This wise caution manifests, on the whole, that atti- 
tude to science that has often marked the attitude of 
the Church of England towards new discoveries. Nor is 
there much cause for surprise at the action of the electors, for 
Hooker in his consideration Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical 
Polity manifests in the days of Elizabeth as warm an appre- 
ciation of the reign of law in nature as Lyell himself. As a 
comment on the moderation indicated by his election, Lyell 
says that a friend in the United States affirms that there 

* Life and Letters of C. Darwin, I, p. 76. 
t Homer, Lift of Sir C. Lyell, I, p. 316, 


" he could hardly dare to approve of the doctrines even in a 
review, such a storm would the orthodox raise against him. 
So much for toleration of Church Establishment and No 
Church Establishment countries." * Advocates of the dis- 
establishment of the Church of England ought to bear in 
mind that the course of the years has not diminished the 
worth of this conclusion. 

The young lady who figures in Pride and Prejudice as a 
student of literature reappears in Sybil as a student of astro- 
nomy or geology. Ladies flocked to hear Lyell's lectures at 
King's College. George Eliot, in her evangelical days, 
describes herself as " revelling in Nichol's Architecture of 
the Heavens."^ Harriet Martineau points out that, in the 
period following the Waverley novels, " the general middle- 
class public purchased five copies of an expensive work on 
geology to one of the most popular novels of the time." J 

So long as Lyell lived he learnt. High priest as he was 
of the doctrine of uniformitarianism, he was always willing 
to make such modification of his opinions as the progress of 
scientific inquiry demanded. Ready to receive new impres- 
sions, he was every whit as ready to correct old views. Nine 
editions of the Principles of Geology had appeared, and in 
every one of them he had maintained the doctrine of Special 
Creation. The only explanation which at the time seemed 
possible to him of the perpetual change of life revealed by the 
successive strata was, that when the material conditions of 
any district became so changed that the old inhabitants died 
out, a new creative fiat went forth, by virtue of which the 
district was again peopled with fresh inhabitants especially 
adapted to its new conditions. When Darwin showed that 
causes were at work which slowly and gradually modified 
the characters of plants and animals, so that they became 
adjusted by a self -adapting process to the changing circum- 
stances around them, he gladly adopted a view which was so 
much in harmony with his general principles. Accordingly 
in his tenth edition he renounced the doctrine of Special 
Creation and adopted that of Evolution. Sir J. D. Hooker, 
in his address to the British Association at Norwich, adduced 

* Horner, Life of Sir C. Lyell, I, p, 317. 

t Life, I, p. 80. 

j History of England, II, p. 334. 


as a signal example of heroism the fact that an author could 
thus abandon " late in life, a theory which he had for forty 
years regarded as one of the foundation-stones of a work 
that had given him the highest position attainable among 
contemporary scientific writers." Yet, if the facts upset the 
theory so completely as Lyell imagined, is there anything 
really heroic in his action? Or does Hooker think that when 
a scientist holds a theory for a long time, the scientist, in spite 
of facts, will persist in maintaining it? Even Darwin wrote, 
" Considering his age, his former views, and position in 
society, I think his conduct has been heroic on this subject." * 
T. H. Huxley once met Herbert Spencer in the Athenaeum. 
Wearing a lugubrious expression Spencer remarked, " Oh, 
Huxley, there has been a tragedy in my house this morning." 
Without waiting to hear its nature, Huxley at once retorted, 
" Oh, I know what has happened. A beautiful scientific 
theory has been killed by one nasty inconvenient fact." If 
one may judge from the words of praise bestowed on Lyell 
by Hooker and Darwin, the real tragedy is that with little 
regard for facts, not a few scientists persist in expressing 
opinions that ignore the " one nasty inconvenient fact." 
It was part of the good fortune of Sir Charles Lyell that he 
had suffered much from opposition. He had learnt tolera- 
tion by bitter experience in early life. He had endured the 
criticisms of the Wernerians, who, obsessed by their own 
leading conceptions, refused to admit that other views were 
possible. Lyell had shared the fate which usually falls to 

Teachers whose minds move faster than the age, 
And faster than society's slow flight. 


Philosophic to the core in his outlook on the world, he ever 
retained that mental plasticity which seldom attends the 
scientist. John Henry Newman held that " in a higher 
world it may be different. But here below to live is to 
change, and to be perfect is to have changed often." In that 
sense Lyell was always advancing towards perfection. From 
such a point of view it is surely obvious that when Lyell 
discarded the doctrine of Special Creation, he was acting in 
no manner to occasion surprise. That it occasioned surprise 
is enough to testify that in the struggle for truth the scien- 
* Life and Letters of C. Darwin, II, p. 326. 


tist is swayed just as truly as any other thinker by the pre- 
possessions of the doctrines in which he has been brought up. 

There was a time when it was easy to jeer at the omni- 
science of the Rev. William Whewell, Master of Trinity 
College, Cambridge, yet he displayed keen sympathy with 
the views enounced by Lyell. In spite of the pronounced 
opposition of the geologists, Whewell announced in Novem- 
ber 1830 to the startled University that Lyell had dis- 
covered a new set of powers in nature which might be termed 
geological dynamics. Whewell set to work to write an 
article for The Quarterly Review, and in The British Critic 
he warmly entered into the new conception of geology, see- 
ing the bearing of uniformity on the subject, and explaining 
it in a clear way. 

The storm soon burst on the devoted head of Lyell. He 
was afraid of the hostility of Oxford University, asking that 
Poulett Scrope's article in The Quarterly Review on this 
account may be toned down. Hard as Conybeare had 
worked to secure Lyell the chair of geology at King's College, 
London, he fired what Lyell termed " an explosion " against 
the Principles of Geology. The friend of Elie de Beaumont 
and Sir Henry de la Beche, Conybeare was sufficiently emi- 
nent in geology to render his opposition serious. Steadfast 
as he had once been on the Wernerian side, C. G. B. Daubeny 
joined forces with Conybeare, and his open-mindedness lent 
strength to all he said. 

In his letter of April 7, 1831, to his sister Marianne Lyell 
plainly thought that the attack of Adam Sedgwick was the 
severest. Admirable as an observer, lucid and brilliant as 
an expositor, he had been Woodwardian Professor of Geo- 
logy at Cambridge since 1818, and in 1831 attained the 
dignity of the presidency of the Geological Society. Enthu- 
siastic and earnest, Sedgwick had a keen eye for the testimony 
of the rocks, and could shed the charm of his own genial 
nature over all his observations. The vigour, the originality, 
and the eloquence with which he could set forth his views 
were enough almost to daunt the courage of Lyell. Jtist as 
Dean Milman had helped by his History of the Jews in giving 
the geologist a hearing, so Archbishop Whately helped by his 
lectures on Political Economy to diffuse the cold light of 
reason as the only test of truth. Whately said that the cry 


against economics is "louder 'than against geology/ be- 
cause people will admit that the sacred writings were not to 
teach us physics, but say that a science connected with human 
concerns should be in accordance even with the letter." * 
As Lyell notes this on August 13, 1831, it is plain that the 
historian and the political economist, who were both in Holy 
Orders, were extending assistance to the new views of the 
geologist. The mental atmosphere was, then, altering. 
Though Sedgwick had discarded the Wernerian hypothesis, 
yet in 1830 from the presidential chair of the Geological 
Society he criticised the leading argument of the Principles 
of Geology in no friendly spirit. He considered that " my 
[i.e. Lyell's] mode of explaining geological phenomena, or 
my bias towards a leading doctrine of the Huttonian hypo- 
thesis, had served like a false horizon in astronomy to vitiate 
the results of my own observation/ 5 f Nor did Sedgwick 
ever see reason to change his attitude, for in a letter of 
October 6, 1855, Lyell writes: " Sedgwick's attempt to take 
the Lower Silurian into his Cambrian is even worse than 
Murchison claiming all that is older than the Devonian as 
appertaining to his Silurian." $ 

Much of the early labours of Lyell and Murchison had 
been in common, and it is intelligible that Lyell was taken 
aback when he found he had to f ace th? active dissent of his 
sometime colleague. Not many scientists retain complete 
possession of their youthfulness and pliability of mind at the 
close of a long life. Lyell was one of them, and Murchison 
was certainly not another. Lyell and Murchison, like Dar- 
win and Lecky, were wealthy men able to devote themselves 
to the pursuit of truth. That pursuit demands inter alia 
pliability, plasticity of mind, and this was not a quality 
possessed by Murchison. With characteristic obstinacy he 
fought against the uniformitarian doctrines in the organic 
as well as in the inorganic history of the world to his death 
in 1871. The concluding pages of the last edition of his 
Siluria reiterate his faith in a former greater intensity of 
the operations of nature. From the chair of the Geogra- 
phical Society, as Sedgwick from the chair of the Geo- 

* Horner, Life of Sir C. Lyell, I, p. 322, 
t Ibid., II, p. 4. 
t Ibid., II, p. 206. 


logical Society, the Lyellian views were proscribed, though 
naturally his greatest vigour of denunciation was reserved 
for his private correspondence. Nor indeed can we deny 
that the weight of official authority was employed for crush- 
ing the new " heresy/' for so Murchison regarded it. 

Murchison never used the argument commended by the 
solicitor to the barrister, " No case : abuse your opponent." 
He attached weight to the part played by glacier-erosion. 
The force of the evidence brought forward by Lyell had con- 
strained him to yield somewhat of the old exclusiveness with 
which he had fought for his icebergs. Some of his points 
had to be modified. He consented rather reluctantly to 
admit the powers of glaciers to polish and score the face of 
a country, and to pile up huge moraine-mounds. This was, 
however, the extreme limit of his concessions. He felt him- 
self free to set his foot down firmly and refuse to go a step 
further in the way of excavation than his friends the " ice- 
men " would have him go. 

Once upon a time Murchison had laughed at the stubborn 
adherence of men like Greenough to the antiquas vias. The 
day came when he himself was to stand just as firmly in the 
old ways. A letter he wrote to Sir William Denison on 
October 6, 1864, forms saddening reading: " In my Anni- 
versary Address to the Geographical Society you would see 
the pains I have taken to moderate the ice-men, who would 
excavate all the rock basins by glaciers eating their way into 
solid rocks. ... In seconding the motion of thanks to 
Lyell for his address at Bath, I felt bound to say a few 
words in defence of my opinions as to the grander intensity 
of causes in old geological times than in the present or Man 
period ; and as Lyell had used the words ' some great convul- 
sion and fracture/ to account for the great rent and fault 
out of which the hot Bath water flows, I said I was happy 
to receive that indication of the right view, and that I should 
in future range my friend Sir Charles along with myself 
among the ' convulsionists/ And again, I entirely disagree 
with him when he adverts with triumph to the discovery of 
animal life in the old Laurentian rocks of North America, 
that this is any indication that we have here ' no trace of a 
beginning.' On the contrary, the only animal which has been 
found, being a zoophyte, adds nothing and changes nothing 


in the general argument founded on the indisputable facts 
recorded all over the world, viz. that there has been a 
progression of creation from the lowest grades of animal 
life up to man/' * Facts he had gathered all his life with 
that untiring perseverance that does him honour. His 
Silurian system had thrown light on these facts. The pity 
was that for the rest of his days all facts must be interpreted 
by their bearing on the Silurian system, and facts are too 
much for such a theory. 

The ranks of Conybeare and Daubeny, of Sedgwick and 
Murchison, were joined by W. H. Fitton, who had laid down 
the proper succession of the strata between the oolite and the 
chalk ; by William Lonsdale, joint originator with Murchison 
and Sedgwick of the theory of the independence of the 
Devonian system; and by Henry Samuel Boase, F.R.S., who 
investigated Cornish geology. Nor would Agassiz give up 
the catastrophe system. Fitton regretted from the historical 
standpoint that the fact that James Hutton had anticipated 
the Principles of Geology was inadequately noticed. Lyell 
retorted that Steno in 1669, Hooke in 1705, and Moro in 
1740 deserved as much credit as Hutton, and that his earlier 
chapters dealt equally with all. Fitton felt natural indigna- 
tion at the unpardonable neglect with which the French and 
Germans had treated Hutton, and he thought he perceived 
similar neglect on the part of Lyell. Lonsdale laid stress 
on the arguments put forward by Elie de Beaumont and by 
Sedgwick, though Lyell succeeded in modifying this ob- 
jector's views. 

If opposition was vocal in England and America, it was 
also vocal in France and in Germany. Elie de Beaumont 
in 1868 still believed in the general sudden formation of the 
organic world and of the particular sudden formation of 
mountain chains. In 1857 there was a vacancy in the French 
Institute and de Beaumont thought that Lyell was anxious for 
election. De Beaumont frankly opposed Lyell, writing to him 
" to let me know, in return for my enmity to his opinions (or 
as they always say in Paris, to himself, ' mes ennemis/ etc., 
meaning my theoretical opponents) that he had the will and 
power to thwart me in what he really imagines is the great 
object of everyone's ambition. His message did not open my 
* Sir A. Geikie, Memoir of Sir R. Murchison, II, p. 318. 


eyes to his course in the election, for I knew that before, but 
was a gratifying testimony to the existence of a party in my 
favour." * 

Another opponent was Joachim Barrande, who had investi- 
gated the extraordinary abundance and variety of Silurian 
fossils in Bohemia. This keen observer noted the equiva- 
lents of Murchison's Upper and Lower Silurian series, and 
he also noted below that series a still older group of strata. 
He discovered a ' colony ' of Upper Silurian fossils 3,400 
feet deep, in the midst of the Lower Silurian group. These 
fossils he regarded as " colonies " which reappeared at 
higher horizons. This constituted a break in the theory for- 
mulated by Lyell. With that loyalty to truth characteristic 
of him Lyell investigated these fossils in 1856. " I never," 
he confessed, " saw Silurian fossils in such abundance except 
in a few strata in Sweden ; but here they pass through many 
thousands of feet. Yet the whole fossiliferous area is only 
equal to one-sixtieth part of the Adriatic. As Barrande 
himself has calculated this, I wonder he remains such a 
finality man. I remember at the Geological Society when 
Sedgwick and Murchison used to argue with me exactly on 
the grounds now taken up by Barrande in proof of a begin- 
ning of life on this globe, founded on the notion that no 
fossils would ever be found below the stiper stones. Now 
that a totally distinct fauna has turned up, and that the trans- 
formation of some are traced from the egg to the adult, 
the discoverer is just as sure that here at least we have the 
true beginning." f 

The German critics, Lyell notices on June I, 1836, were 
attacking him vigorously. They held that by impugning the 
doctrine of spontaneous generation, and substituting nothing 
in its place, he had left them nothing but the direct and 
miraculous intervention of the First Cause, as often as a new 
species is introduced. Hence, in their judgment, he had 
overthrown his own doctrine of revolutions, carried on by a 
regular system of secondary causes. The tenth edition was 
to meet attacks like this. Serious as was the opposition of 
Murchison and Sedgwick in England, the opposition of 
Leopold von Buch in Germany was just as serious. He was 

* Horner, Life of Sir C. Lyell, II, p. 243. 
t Ibid., II, p. 226. 


the most illustrious geologist that Germany had produced 
With Alexander von Humboldt he had attended the lecture! 
of Werner at Freiburg. Conservative by nature, von Bucl 
possessed width of knowledge and shrewdness of observa- 
tion. To physical geography and palaeontology, to dyna 
mical and stratigraphical geology, he made original contribu- 
tions. He was quite as philosophic and almost as travelled as 
Lyell himself. " We must/' held Lyell, " preach up travel- 
ling as the first, second, and third requisites for a moden 
geologist," * a doctrine to which von Buch w r ould readily 
have subscribed. He resembled de Beaumont in conceiving 
personal hostility towards those who did not embrace th< 
theoretical doctrines which he published. He experiencec 
difficulty in breaking with all that Werner had taught hin 
as to the aqueous origin of basalt, and all that he himsel; 
thought he had perceived in his extended journeys througl 
his fatherland. The whole doctrine of the chemical precipi 
tation of the rocks of the earth's crust was at stake. If h< 
surrendered at one point, where was he to stop? The sigh 
of the volcanoes and basalt-hills of Italy and Central Frana 
and the proofs of the recent uprise of Scandinavia wiclenec 
his geological horizon, which was still dominated by the sur 
of Werner. Glacial geology of the type propounded b> 
Lyell he could not bear. When Louis Agassiz put forwarc 
such a view, von Buch " could hardly contain his indignation 
mingled with contempt, for what seemed to him the vie\> 
of a youthful and inexperienced observer." f On Alarcl 
24, 1855, Lyell writes: " It is strange what influence voi 
Buch exerted, for he had made both Kwald and Beyricl 
entirely disbelieve all the glacial hypothesis. The other da] 
I told Mitscherlich I would convert them both, and he saic 
(both of them being present and laughing at the joke), ' No 
you will never do that, for the one ' (pointing to Beyrich) ' i; 
like a stone, and the other like india-rubber ; you think you an 
making a great impression, and then find next day that uj 
he comes again just in his former shape/' J 

Lord Kelvin no more accepted in its entirety the uniformi 
tarian doctrine than he accepted its supplement, the evolu 

* Horner, Life of Sir C. Lyell, I, p. 233. 

t E. C. Agassiz, Louis Agassis, his Life and Correspondence, I, p. 264 

j Horner, 'Life of Sir C. Lyell, II, p. 203. 


tionist doctrine. He introduced from Kant's Collected Works 
his remarks in the following parable : " A large proportion 
of English popular geologists of the present day have been 
longer contented than other scientists to look upon the sun 
as Fontenelle's roses looked upon their gardener. ' Our 
gardener/ they say, ' must be a very old man; within the 
memory of roses he is the same as he has always been; it is 
impossible he can ever die, or be other than he is.' " * 

* S. T. Thompson, Life of Lord Kelvin, I, p. 539- 



THE advocates of the advantages of a mixed ancestry can 
turn with considerable confidence to the career of Hermann 
Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz. He was the son of 
Ferdinand Helmholtz, a teacher of philology and philosophy 
in the Potsdam Gymnasium, a man of high culture and high 
intelligence. His mother was the daughter of a Hanoverian 
artillery officer of the name of Penne, a lineal descendant of 
William Penn, the Quaker who founded Pennsylvania. She 
possessed the faculty of penetrating obscure points by intui- 
tion, a faculty she transmitted to her son. The grandmother 
on his mother's side sprang from a family of French refu- 
gees, of the name of Sauvage. Thus Helmholtz had the 
blood of England and France as well as of Germany coursing 
through his veins when he was born on August 31, 1821. 
The width of the literary studies of the father is perhaps 
seen in the comprehensive scientific tastes the son was to 
develop. Is there a trace of any hereditary aptitude for 
mathematics ? 

The little we know of his early life was revealed by Helm- 
holtz in a speech delivered in 1891, in reply to the toast of 
his health at a banquet given in honour of his seventieth 
birthday. For the first seven years of his life he was a 
weakly boy, confined for long periods to his room, and fre- 
quently to his bed; but he was fond of such amusements as 
were possible, and he evinced wonderful activity of mind. 
Thanks to his wooden bricks, he already knew, like Pascal, 
all the facts the masters of his geometry class expected him 
to learn. Frau von Bernuth, his father's cousin, daughter 
of Surgeon-General Mursinna of Berlin, assured the parents 
by the example of Alexander von Humboldt, who learnt 
nothing before he was eight, " and now the King has made 



him President of the Academy of Sciences, with the title of 
Excellency, and a big yearly stipend and this is what I 
predict for your son." The lad's health improved by degrees 
with gymnastics and daily bathing, and his keen love of 
nature was developed by his regular walks with his father 
in the beautiful environs of Potsdam. His father encour- 
aged him to study languages and literature. The quality of 
his mind, however, did not fit him for following in his 
father's steps. While the class read Cicero or Virgil, which 
did not interest him, he was often engaged beneath the table 
in working out the passage of rays through the telescope, or 
in learning some of the optical theorems that served him in 
good stead later on in the construction of the ophthalmoscope. 
It is curious to find that in the textbooks he read on physics 
and chemistry no attention had been paid to the discoveries 
of Antoine Laurent Lavoisier and Sir Humphry Davy. 
Phlogiston still played its part and galvanism ended with the 
voltaic pile. 

At school he met with no difficulty in learning off by heart 
the poems of the great masters, though he found the task 
far from easy when the verses were by second-rate poets. 
History, as it was taught in those days, was beyond him. 
It was a real torture to him to commit prose extracts to 
memory. Indeed, in the lower classes, he felt hampered by 
the want of a clear recollection of facts if they were discon- 
nected. He even found it hard to distinguish between left 
and right. It is a remarkable indication of the breadth 
of his early education that he was able to read the fables of 
Lokman in the original Arabic when he was twelve years of 
age. His father exercised him in the composition of essays 
and verses, and Helmholtz remarks that although the verses 
showed that he was a poor poet, the practice proved invalu- 
able to him in the way of training him to the proper use of 
forms of expression. He also mentions that he used to listen 
to the philosophical discussions between his father and his 
friends, thus growing familiar with some of the problems of 
metaphysics as enunciated by Kant and Fichte. 

The home of the boy was decidedly intellectual, if it was 
not scientific. Indeed it may well be that such an atmosphere 
was best fitted to develop the many-sidedness of the future 
scientist. Algebra and geometry were the keys with which 


he hoped to unlock the secrets of physical phenomena that 
increasingly attracted him. Of course he performed experi- 
ments, to the detriment, he confessed, of his mother's linen 
and furniture. He constructed optical apparatus with a few 
spectacle glasses and a small botanical lens belonging to 
his father. Filled with a passionate enthusiasm for the 
causes of phenomena, he never felt satisfied with the apparent 
solution of any problem, if there were still doubtful points 
in it, and these he invariably endeavoured to clear up by 
bringing them fairly before his mind. Caring for art and 
science, he also cared for music and poetry. Nor is it devoid 
of significance that some of the greatest masters of mathe- 
matical physics, like Kelvin in the past and Einstein in the 
present, have been fervently devoted to music. 

While still in the second class of the Gymnasium, Helm- 
holtz announced to his father that he had found his vocation 
in life, and that it was undoubtedly science. The philoso- 
pher was forced to tell him that he had to educate four 
more children, explaining that he could not afford to provide 
him with instruction in physics unless he also took up the 
study of medicine. The lad acquiesced in this decision. As 
early as 1835 his father applied for his admission to the Royal 
Friedrich-Wilhelm Institute of Medicine and Surgery in 
Berlin, which gave considerable assistance to medical 
students. For it guaranteed them a complete course of 
study and means of livelihood in return for a certain num- 
ber of years' service as army surgeons. Thanks to the prac- 
tical assistance of his relative, Surgeon-General Mursinna, 
he obtained admission as bursar to this Institute in 1838. 
Work was strenuous. There were forty-eight lectures in 
the week. There were six on Chemistry by Mitscherlich, 
six on General Anatomy, four on Splanchnology, three on 
Osteology, three on the Anatomy of the Sense-organs. In 
addition to these there were lectures on Osteology in the ana- 
tomical theatre. Hecker gave two lectures on General Medi- 
cine. Then there were four on Physics by Turte, two on 
Logic by Wolf, three on History by Preuss, two on Latin by 
Hecker, and one on French by Pastor Gosshauer. Beside 
these the student had twelve hours of revision classes. In 
spite of the severity of his attendance at classes, his spare 
time was spent on music, even on the worst days practising 


for an hour. He played sonatas of Mozart and Beethoven, 
to whom he was as devoted as Bismarck, and any new pieces 
he got hold of. In the evenings of his first year he read 
Byron and Goethe, and sometimes for a change the integral 
calculus. In his list of lectures there is no mention of mathe- 
matics, yet his thoughts often strayed to this subject. No 
one, however, fostered his talent for it, and it is significant 
of the silence with which he pursued it that some of his 
early friends, such as Brticke and Du Bois Reymond, who 
were his fellow-students, remained unaware of the atten- 
tion he was bestowing on the problems of analytical geometry. 
He had no teacher save his own genius. One wonders 
what might not have happened had he had a teacher of such 
transcendent gifts as William Hopkins or Edward John 

For the development of his mathematical powers he had 
to rely on himself. He continued during his scanty hours 
of leisure to devote himself to music and poetry. He read 
Homer and Byron with the same avidity as he devoured Biot 
and Kant. He found time to take part in amateur theatricals, 
enjoying a splendid performance of Euryanthe and admir- 
ing also Seydelmamrs Mephistopheles and Clara Stich's 
Gretchen. Nor did he stand aside from the growing national 
feeling, watching its developments with eager interest. 
Indeed in what was he not interested? More and more he 
felt drawn to the teaching of that master physiologist, 
Johannes Miiller, the greatest living force then in the Uni- 
versity of Berlin, the Cuvier of Germany.* What John 
Hunter f accomplished in England, he accomplished in Ger- 
many, for he became the most outstanding biological teacher 
of his time. He left the deepest impression upon all who 
were fortunate to come into contact with him. Among his 
pupils were Schwann and Henle in anatomy, Briicke and Du 
Bois Reymond in physiology, and Virchow in pathological 
anatomy. Nor was his influence confined to Germany. 

* E. Du Bois Reymond reprints his Gcdachtnissrcde cntf Joh. Miiller f 
with extensive notes, in his Reden, II, pp. 143-334, especially 219 ff. ; cf . 
T. von Billroth, Lehrcn und Lernen dcr medicinischen Wisscnschaftcn, 
pp. 307-66. 

t Audubon, Cuvier, Benjamin Franklin, Gladstone, von Humboldt, 
John Hunter, Samuel Johnson, Lord Kitchener, Scott, and Wagner had 
fathers of over forty. 


Bonders in Holland ; Claude Bernard and Vulpian in France ; 
Sir William Bowman, William Sharpey, and William Ben- 
jamin Carpenter in England; and Allen Thomson and John 
Goodsir in Scotland, all acknowledged the seminal ideas 
Miiller was sowing. What William Harvey and Charles Bell 
did for physiology in England, Albrecht von Haller (1708 
1777) and Johannes Miiller (1801 1858) did for it in 
Germany. Helmholtz lived entirely in the circle of Miiller's 
pupils, since he had already formed a friendship with the 
physiologists Briicke and Du Bois Reymond, who were two 
years senior to himself, and like him devotedly attached to 
their suggestive professor. What this intercourse meant to 
him Helmholtz owned when he said, half a century later 
so lasting are the impressions of youth " Whoever comes 
into contact with men of the first rank has an altered scale 
of values in life. Such intellectual contact is the most inter- 
esting event life can offer." 

Suggestive as the intercourse with Miiller undoubtedly 
was, the intercourse with the students of his day at the Insti- 
tute was no whit less powerful. For while the matured mind 
can stimulate, young mind in touch with young mind can 
kindle the flame as nothing else can. Du Bois Reymond, 
who in due time became Professor of Physiology in the 
University of Berlin, Briicke, who was to hold the same chair 
in the University of Vienna, and Virchow, who was to 
become Professor of Pathology in the University of Berlin, 
were among the young men who felt that their master was 
unquestionably right in the emphasis he laid on the investi- 
gation of biological problems by the methods of physical and 
chemical science. Fortunately at this time the chair of 
Physics in the University of Berlin was held by Gustav 
Magnus, who felt repelled by the assumptions of the meta- 
physical school and attracted by the experiments of the school 
of Johannes Miiller. Clausius and Heintz, Gustav Karsten 
and Knoblauch, Kirchhoff and Werner Siemens, Quincke and 
Wiedemann, Beetz and Tyndall in physics or in chemistry 
advocated the methods employed by Briicke, Du Bois Rey- 
mond, and Helmholtz in physiology. They formed " the 
Physical Society," and in it members from the physical and 
the physiological sides met on equal terms, though as Briicke, 
Du Bois Reymond, and Helmholtz approached physiological 


problems from the physical standpoint the physicists tended 
to gain supremacy. The metaphysicians had assumed that 
the fundamental problem of vital action was quite beyond 
the domain of experimental science, and "the Physical 
Society" implicitly set out to combat ideas that could not 
be demonstrated. 

Helmholtz never believed that the years he spent in medical 
study were wasted. Nor were they. In a lecture on 
"Thought in Medicine/' delivered in 1871, he remarked: 
" My own original inclination was towards physics ; external 
circumstances obliged me to commence the study of medi- 
cine. It had, however, been the custom of a former time to 
combine the study of medicine with that of the natural 
sciences, and whatever in this was compulsory I must con- 
sider fortunate ; not merely that I entered medicine at a time 
in which anyone who was even moderately at home in 
physical considerations found a virgin field for cultivation, 
but I consider the study of medicine to have been the train- 
ing which preached more impressively and more convincingly 
than any other could have done, the everlasting principles 
of all scientific work; principles which are so simple and yet 
are ever forgotten again; so clear and yet always so hidden 
by a deceptive veil." * 

In 1842 Helmholtz, at the age of twenty-one, presented 
his inaugural thesis, entitled De Fdbrica Systematis nervosi 
Evertebratonim, or " The Structure of the Nervous System 
in Invertebrates," and it was naturally dedicated to Johannes 
Miiller. In 1833 Von Ehrenberg discovered in ganglia, 
which are usually small, more or less rounded swellings 
on nerves, often situated at the apparent junction of several 
trunks, peculiar cells or corpuscles. These cells are also 
found in all nerve centres, such as the spinal cord and brain, 
and they lie in a fine variety of tissue, while numerous nerve 
centres pass through the ganglia, apparently in close proxi- 
mity to the cells. Was there a connection between the nerve 
cells and the nerve fibres ? Mtiller had taught that there was 
in all probability a connection. It was reserved for Helm- 
holtz, with a very simple and primitive form of a com- 
pound microscope, to discover in the ganglia of leeches and 
crabs that the nerve fibre originates from one of the cor- 
. * Popular Lectures, 1881, p. 202. 


puscles. What the master had guessed the pupil had dis- 
covered, thus furnishing a first-rate contribution to minute 
anatomy. It was the first of the long series of discoveries 
which added to our knowledge of no less than seven sciences. 
As each of seven cities contended for Homer, so seven 
sciences, mathematics, physics, chemistry, physiology, medi- 
cine, philosophy, and aesthetics, claimed Helmholtz. From 
1842 to 1894, the year of his death, paper after paper flowed 
from his indefatigable pen. With the exception of one 
year, 1849, ^ e always published at least one important paper, 
usually three or four, each year, so that he had to his credit 
a grand total of no fewer than 217 distinct papers and books. 
It is a record just as impressive as Mommsen's for its quality 
as for its quantity. 

His discovery in 1842 showed what he might have accom- 
plished in the realm of anatomy. He was a man who took 
the practical side of medicine as seriously as did Sir James 
Paget. In his lecture on " Thought in Medicine " he points 
out that " perhaps only he can appreciate the immense im- 
portance and the frightful practical scope of the problems 
of medical theory, who has watched the fading eye of ap- 
proaching death, and witnessed the distracted grief of 
affection, and who has asked himself the solemn questions, 
Has all been done which could be done to ward off the dread 
event? Have all the resources and all the means which 
science has accumulated become exhausted? " * 

The scientific atmosphere in which he had lived with 
Johannes Muller and his congenial friends he exchanged 
for his duties as Hussar-Surgeon attached to the regiment 
of Red Hussars, stationed at his old home, Potsdam. Such 
was his work from 1842 to his appointment to the chair of 
Physiology in Konigsberg in 1849. Private practice he 
never had, and all his time off duty he devoted to science. 
He arranged a small laboratory for physics and physiology 
in the barracks, where he was frequently visited by Du Bois 
Reymond and Briicke, who came out from Berlin to discuss 
their plans for the future reconstruction of physiology. 
True, the instruments were as elementary as those employed 
by Michael Faraday, but the mind is what really matters. 
Besides, there was the constant advice and assistance which 
* Popular Lectures, 1881, p. 203. 


Du Bois Reymond tendered, who, he writes, " tended me like 
a mother, to enable me to attain a scientific position." At 
once he set out to investigate the metabolism in muscular 
activity, to embark on a series of laborious experiments on 
the conduction of heat in muscle, and the rate of transmis- 
sion of the nervous impulse. 

There were metaphysical presuppositions in the mind of 
his father, and even Miiller was not free from the older 
quasi-metaphysical position, though in his later years he also 
adopted the views of Ernst Heinrich Weber. He was the 
first to demand an explanation of the phenomena of life by 
examination of these phenomena by physical methods and by 
the application of physical laws. Helmholtz was close to 
his own home, and he increasingly felt that his whole scien- 
tific attitude was irreconcilable with the wholly speculative 
philosophy of his father. Ferdinand Helmholtz admitted 
only the deductive method in science and refused to admit 
the inductive. His father, Hermann, on the other hand, pro- 
claimed with all the vehemence of a young discoverer that the 
use of inductive reasoning constituted the salvation of 
science in general and of the physical sciences in particular. 
This is the clash of two generations which Edmund Gosse 
has so pathetically portrayed in Father and Son, and it is also 
the clash of men influenced by two sets of conflicting pre- 
suppositions. We meet it in the case of Clara Schumann, 
whose father opposed her marriage with the famous musician 
because his son-in-law-to-be belonged to a school of music 
different from his own, and he foresaw that when his daugh- 
ter married she would fall not under her father's influence 
but under her husband's. Treitschke the father was devoted 
to Saxony, while his son was devoted to Prussia with conse- 
quences which can still be felt. The outcome in the case 
of Helmholtz was that he came to shun discussion of his 
experiments with his father. The old man felt the altered 
nature of the relationship keenly, but he came at last to 
submit to it. 

Definite and methodical experiment was the only method 
by which he could advance the general principles of science. 
" Vital forces " if there were such forces must be brought 
within the scope of the laboratory. The Physical Society, 
like Bacon, took all knowledge for its province. Miiller had 


again and again raised such questions as whether the life of 
organisms was the effect of one special, self -engendered, 
definitely directed force, or merely the sum of the forces that 
are effective in inorganic nature also, modified only by the 
manner of their occurrence. Baron von Liebig, with all the 
authority of his commanding position, transformed these 
questions into the far more concrete problem of whether the 
mechanical energy and the heat produced in an organism 
could entirely result from its own metabolism, or not. Be- 
hind these questions Helmholtz perceived that there was a 
common bond in the validity of that law of Conservation of 
Energy which had for years seemed incontestable to his 
mode of thought. Proof was wanting. Nevertheless, he 
felt convinced of its validity. The outer world was devoid 
of his intuition, and for it there was necessary the proof to 
be derived from endless experiments in different regions of 
physics and physiology. Of the truth of his mathematico- 
physical conception he entertained little doubt. In 1845 he 
set about testing the accuracy of his physical conceptions 
upon a highly complex physiological problem, and the result 
was the paper he published in Miiller's Archiv, entitled 
" Metabolism during Muscular Activity." 

A paper like this cannot be understood nor its significance 
appreciated unless we know something about the previous 
history of the attempts to solve the problems of fermentation 
and putrefaction. From time immemorial, as Sir Rickman 
J. Godlee observes in his fine biography of Lord Lister, it 
was common knowledge that grape juice turned into wine, 
that beer was made from malt, and vinegar from wine, by 
similar processes. The fermentations which lead to the pro- 
duction of wine and bread have been known since the pre- 
historic period, and must have been among the first of natural 
phenomena which man learnt to control and adapt to his 
needs. They attracted the attention of philosophers who, in 
a succession from the early alchemists through Paracelsus to 
Stahl, played with ideas and did little more than show the 
absurdity of the older ideas which they in turn replaced by 
new verbal fantasies. Then came the era of chemists, who 
had learned how to handle gases and to distinguish one from 
the other. The nature of fermentation was supposed to be 
highly mysterious, and accordingly the scientific men up 


to the beginning of the nineteenth century passed it by. The 
chemists of the eighteenth century had spent precious time in 
disputes about the number of the alchemical principles and 
the phlogistic theory. It occurred to but few of them that 
they ought to test their pre-conceived notions by experiment. 
The ferment of the French Revolution shortened the days of 
Lavoisier, a founder of modern chemistry, who was the first 
to study fermentation scientifically. The Republic pro- 
claimed it had no need for savants of the type of Lavoisier or 
Condorcet, Bailly or Cousin, Vicq-d'Azyr or Dionis du 
Lejour, and exterminated them, though nothing like so ruth- 
lessly as the early Russian Revolutionists. Lavoisier re- 
garded fermentation as a purely chemical process and felt 
only interested in observing the chemical changes he per- 
ceived. He introduced the chemical balance, and showed 
that when a solution of sugar was fermenting under the 
influence of a little yeast from beer, the sum of the weights 
of the alcohol and carbonic acid that were produced was very 
nearly equal to the weight of sugar that was destroyed. He 
carried the analysis further, and came to the wrong conclusion 
that if it were possible to recombine the alcohol and the 
carbonic acid, the sugar would be recovered. He had 
already shown by other experiments that a man who is 
doing work requires more oxygen than a man at rest. 
Obviously certain ponderable or imponderable substances 
were consumed in the production of mechanical effects, and 
were renewed by vegetative vital processes. He also noted 
that the amount of excreted nitrogenous matters was in- 
creased by muscular activity. The matter to be investigated 
was, What were data concerning the initial and the inter- 
mediate steps of the process? What precisely was the seat 
of its occurrence? 

Gay-Lussac, the pupil and the friend of Berthollet, had 
turned his attention in manhood to physics, and in middle life 
he changed to chemistry. In 1810 he carried on the experi- 
ments stopped by the execution of Lavoisier in 1794.* They 
had been suggested to him by what M. Appert, who had no 
scientific education, had found out. Gay-Lussac published 
the results of a series of these experiments on fermentation. 

* Annales de Chimie, 1810, LXXVI, p. 245. Here my indebtedness to 
Sir Rickman J. Godlee is very heavy. 


M. Appert, a confectioner or food-purveyor, had preserved 
alimentary substances by the received empirical methods, 
such as desiccation or pickling, and " having spent 45 years 
in this business," he records, " I have been able to avail 
myself, in my process, of a number of advantages which the 
greater number of those persons have not possessed who have 
devoted themselves to the art of preserving." In his book 
on The Art of Preserving all Kinds of Animal and Vegetable 
Substances for Several Years he sets forth his results. By 
order of the French Minister of the Interior in 1810 it was 
published in a report of the Board of Arts and Manufactures. 
Appert's plan was to place the substances he wished to pre- 
serve in very carefully corked bottles, and to keep them for 
a longer or shorter time at the temperature of boiling water. 
The bottles were filled nearly full. Practically, the results 
were almost always successful. In fact Appert anticipated 
the modern methods of bottling fruit and vegetables. To 
his extreme surprise Gay-Lussac found that grape juice thus 
preserved for a year fermented in a few hours if decanted 
into another vessel. He therefore assumed that oxygen was 
necessary for starting the fermentation of grape juice, though 
he was forced to own that it might not be necessary for 
carrying on the process when it had once been set going, or 
even for starting the growth of the yeast. 

Gay-Lussac appealed to the experiments conducted by 
Lavoisier, Fabroni, and Baron Thenard. The last was not 
merely an experimenter but also belonged to that rare class 
of great professors. He could truthfully boast that he had 
had 40,000 pupils, and that he had left the impress of his 
winning personality on all of them. The results of the 
experiments of these three men had been to show that for 
the development of alcoholic fermentation it is necessary to 
bring together a saccharine matter and a particular ferment 
" de nature animate." Gay-Lussac goes on to say that it has 
been asserted that this can take place in the absence of oxygen. 
But can it? For such an argument assumes that all living 
ferments are identical, a proposition he vigorously contests. 
By a series of experiments he found he was right, and he 
succeeded in convincing Thenard that he was right. Gay- 
Lussac concluded that " the ferment of the grape is not of 
the same nature as the yeast of beer, or rather that they are 


not by any means both of them in the same condition." * A 
step had been taken, but that was all Gay-Lussac was only 
too well aware that " fermentation still seems to me one of 
the most mysterious of chemical processes; especially because 
it only operates gradually, and because we cannot understand 
why, when the ferment and the sugar are intimately mixed 
together, they do not act upon one another more rapidly. 
One would be tempted to believe that it is partly due to a 
galvanic process, and that it has some analogy with the 
mutual precipitation of metals." f Plainly, he was straying 
away from the path of the true solution. 

From 1810 to 1835 nothing further was done. Pasteur 
was a boy of fifteen and Lister was only eight, when from 
two or three quarters interest in the problem revived. The 
darkness of the subject was pierced by a momentary ray of 
light in 1836. Another distinguished French chemist, 
Cagniard-Latour, presented his observations in a paper sent 
to the Academic des Sciences on June 12, 1837. He was the 
first to call in aid the use of the microscope. He had been 
working for twenty-five years, he said, at first with very 
imperfect instruments, but more recently with better ones 
by Georges Oberhauser and Giovanni Battista Amici which 
magnified 300 and 400 diameters. 

Cagniard-Latour tabulated the result of his investigations 
as follows: 

1. Yeast is a mass of small globules which, as they can 
reproduce themselves, are organic and not simply a chemical 
substance, as was before supposed. 

2. These bodies appear to belong to the vegetable kingdom 
and to reproduce themselves in different manners. 

3. They appear to act on a saccharine solution as long as 
they retain their vitality, " from which it is fair to conclude 
that very probably it is some effect of their vegetation which 
sets free the carbonic acid whilst converting the sugar into 
a spirituous liquor." 

To these main conclusions he added three other minor 
propositions : 

i. That yeast can develop and increase under some circum- 

*Annales de Chimie, 1810, LXXVI, p. 246. 
t Ibid., p. 247. 


stances with great speed, even in the presence of carbonic 
acid, as in the brewer's vats. 

2. That the manner in which it grows is different from 
that previously observed in the case of similar microscopic 

3. That it retains its vitality even after exposure to the 
low temperature obtainable from solidified carbonic acid. 

Gay-Lussac had been puzzled by the slow and progressive 
action of a living ferment. Cagniard-Latour solved the 
puzzle when he demonstrated that this action depended upon 
the gradual growth of an organism. The ferment of beer 
called yeast was, in short, composed of cells " susceptible 
of reproduction by a sort of budding, and probably acting on 
sugar through some effect of their vegetation." Lavoisier, 
Fabroni, Baron Thenard, Gay-Lussac, and Cagniard-Latour 
were all Frenchmen who approached the problem from the 
physical angle. Now it was the turn of Germans to approach 
it from the physiological angle, though it was to be reserved 
for the Physical Society to approach problems from all 

How indispensable a new line of approach was is clear 
when a man like J. B. Dumas, who was to be the academic 
sponsor for Pasteur, said that perhaps there might be a sequel 
to Cagniard-Latour's statement. So late as 1853, Anglada, 
in his book On Contagion, expressed himself thus : " M. 
Dumas, who is an authority, looks upon the act of fermenta- 
tion as strange and obscure ; he declares that it gives rise to 
phenomena the knowledge of which is only tentative at 
present. Such a competent affirmation is of a nature to dis- 
courage those who claim to unravel the mysteries of con- 
tagion by the comparative study of fermentation. What is 
the advantage of explaining one through the other since both 
are equally mysterious ! " There was evidently comfort to 
be derived when you labelled phenomena obscure or mys- 
terious, and greater comfort when you labelled them both 
obscure and mysterious. Berzelius, the Swedish chemist, 
thought that fermentation was due to contact. Was there 
not supposed to be a catalytic force? In his opinion, what 
Cagniard-Latour believed he had seen was but "an imme- 
diate vegetable principle, which became precipitated during 
the fermentation of beer, and which, in precipitating, pre- 


sented forms analogous to the simpler forms of vegetable life, 
but formation does not constitute life/' 

The heart of Helmholtz rejoiced to know that the first 
German physiologist to get close to the solution of the vexed 
question of fermentation was a friend and pupil of Johannes 
Miiller, Theodor Schwann. Working independently of 
Cagniard-Latour and in complete ignorance of his labours 
Schwann wrote his first paper a few months before that 
of the French physicist, though it was not published till a 
few months later.* Schwann gave the first real proof that 
the vegetable cells caused fermentation. Of course his 
proofs encountered opposition from all who held the widely 
diffused belief in spontaneous generation. The facts he 
adduced went a long way to prove the truth of his conclusion. 
In true scientific spirit, he admitted that he had met with 
nasty, inconvenient facts which he could not account for. It 
is of course the only justifiable method of presenting con- 
clusions, but it is not exactly the way to produce conviction. 
In spite of the corroboration of his striking facts put forward 
by men like Franz Schtilze and Schroeder, the scientific 
world remained unconvinced. 

From the days of Lavoisier to those of Schwann there 
had been marked advance. One of the then great men in 
the world of science was Baron von Liebig, who was wont to 
make oracular pronouncements on many questions. He 
contemptuously brushed aside the arguments of Cagniard- 
Latour and Schwann, and as his reputation was world-wide 
men paid him attention. In his paper, " Sur les Phenomenes 
de la Fermentation et de la Putrefaction, et sur les causes qui 
les provoquent," he allows that the microscope reveals the 
presence of certain globules in the deposit that takes place 
during fermentation. He goes on to point out that "the 
appearance they present in these circumstances has induced 
certain savants to adopt the view that the ferment consists 
of organised living beings, plants or animalcules, which, 
in order that they may be able to develop, assimilate the 
elements of the sugar and give them off as excrement in the 
form of carbonic acid and alcohol ; this is how they explain 

* " Vorlaufige Mittheihmg betreffend Versuche iiber die Weingahrung 
und Faulniss," von Dr. Th. Schwann im Berlin; Annalen der Physik 
und Chcmie, 1837, XLI, p. 184. 


the decomposition of the sugar and the increase in the amount 
of the ferment during the formation of the must of beer. 
This hypothesis is self -destructive." * Fermentations to 
him were simply chemical processes. 

We must do Liebig justice, for he has his own explanation 
of both fermentation and putrefaction. They take place by 
what he calls eremacausis, which is a species of slow com- 
bustion. By eremacausis he understood certain changes that 
organic substances undergo at normal or slightly raised tem- 
peratures, and which only occur in the moist state and in 
the presence of oxygen. His explanation of putrefaction is 
that it is " a kind of eremacausis which takes place without 
the influence of atmospheric oxygen ; it is a combustion of one 
or of many of the elements of the organic substance at the 
expense of its own oxygen, or possibly of that of the water, 
or possibly even at the expense of the oxygen of the organic 
matter and of the water at the same time." These theories 
were adopted, taught, and were to be found in all treatises 
on chemistry. Curiously enough, Liebig insisted that it was 
the dead portion of the yeast and not the living which, being 
an extremely alterable organic substance, " decomposed, and 
in decomposing set in motion by the rupture of its own ele- 
ments the molecules of the fermentative matter." f 

Helmholtz set himself the task of investigating the modi- 
fications produced in the chemical constitution of the muscle 
by its own activity. Resorting to the frog, " that ancient 
martyr to science," he succeeded by means of the electrical 
machine he had constructed, and by a Leyden jar, in showing 
that the components within a muscle undergo chemical trans- 
formation during its activity in virtue of the chemical pro- 
cesses he had described in his account of fermentation and 
putrefaction. For a time these experiments on metabolism, 
in spite of his other duties, engrossed him. But was there 
not a preliminary step? What were the relations between 
muscular action and the heat therein developed? With the 
smaller issue there was inextricably connected the larger one 
of a theory of animal heat. Is the material theory of heat 
any longer tenable? All his thoughts led him to say, No. 
Must a kinetic theory be substituted for it ? All his thoughts 

* Annales de Chimie et de Physique, 1839, LXXI, p. 187. 
t R. Vallery-Radot, The Life of Pasteur, I, p. 105. 


were tending to make him say, Yes. Heat, he was coming 
increasingly to hold, originates in mechanical forces, either 
directly by friction, or indirectly from an electrical current 
produced by the motion of magnets. At the beginning of 
October 1846 he sent a " Report on Work done on the Theory 
of Animal Heat for 1845," at the request of Du Bois Rey- 
mond, to the Fortschritte der Physik, issued by the Physical 
Society, and in the course of it he maintained that his con- 
ception of heat as motion involves the conclusion that 
mechanical, electrical, and chemical forces must always be 
the definite equivalent of one and the same energy, whatever 
the mode by which one force is transformed into another. 
Such a far-reaching conception lacked confirmation. Obvi- 
ously the physicists and the physiologists of the Physical 
Society must set out with their experiments. 

The study of fermentation and putrefaction is clearly one 
that takes the student far afield. Helmholtz was able to 
show that the oxygen produced by electrolysis in a sealed-up 
tube containing boiled fermentable fluid did not cause fermen- 
tation. Then he placed a bladder full of boiled grape juice in 
a vat of fermenting juice, and found that the fluid in the 
bladder did not ferment. Beyond question this ingeniously 
proved that the cause of fermentation could not pass through 
the wall of the bladder. Liebig held that if the fermentation 
were excited by a substance formed by the yeast cells, and 
presumably soluble, one would have expected it to pass 
through the wall of the bladder. But Helmholtz proved that 
it did not. On the other hand, if the process were caused by 
the small yeast cells, then one can understand why fermenta- 
tion was not excited, as the yeast cells could not pass through 
the membrane. In effect, he had prepared the way for the 
conclusion that the living organisms in the air and in the yeast 
are the causes of putrefaction and fermentation. 

The investigation had begun with the phenomena of animal 
heat and it widened into the consideration of the causes of 
the changes observable in energy. The subject continued to 
agitate his mind from 1844 to 1848, and he returned to it in 
1850, 1852, 1855, and 1859, a singularly epoch-making year 
in the history of science. In order to judge the worth of his 
contribution to one of the most far-reaching conceptions 
in modern science, we must retrace our steps to note its 


slow growth. Others had been working more or less 
chiefly more vaguely in the field before Helmholtz. 

Bacon, in his Novum Organum, states his conviction that 
" the very essence of heat is motion and nothing else." 
Descartes affirmed the doctrine of the constancy of the quan- 
tity of motion in the world. Boyle, in his book On Cold, 
published in 1665, when discussing the primum frigidum, 
says: " For if a body's being cold signify no more than its 
not having its insensible parts so much agitated as those of 
our sensories, there will be no cause to bring in the primum 
frigidum ... it suffices that the sun, or some other agent 
which agitated more vehemently its parts before, does now 
either cease to agitate them, or agitate them very remissly/ 1 
John Locke makes a similar statement, but all these state- 
ments are merely speculative, wanting any experimental veri- 
fication. Newton was in possession of the principal facts 
of the conservation and the transformation of energy.* 

The first experiments of value were those of Count Rum- 
ford about 1798. The scientists of his day held that heat 
is an imponderable fluid, caloric, which flows from a body 
at a higher temperature to one at a lower, much as water 
flows from a place of higher to a place of lower level. They 
also spoke of substances having different capacities for heat. 
Lavoisier had demonstrated the truth of the conservation of 
matter. Rum ford set to work to develop the consequences 
of this conservation. He reasoned that if heat is a fluid, it 
can neither be created nor destroyed. Hence either the same 
amount of heat must be present in the hot chips and cannon 
as in the unbored metal or else heat must have reached the 
cannon from outside. He produced by friction sufficient 
heat to raise 26*58 pounds of water from its freezing-point 
to its boiling-point. Heat, he deduced, could not be a 
material substance. It is a form of energy: it is motion. 
Black had shown that heat could disappear as temperature 
and become latent, that is, heat not discoverable by the ther- 
mometer. Still, in his view heat was a material substance. 
Rumford's experiments threw doubt on this conception. He 
was in fact the first to suggest definitely the convertibility of 
heat into mechanical work. It was not the disappearance of 

* P. G. Tait, Lectures on Recent Advances in Physical Science, lect. 
ii, p. 27. 


heat but its appearance when mechanical work was performed 
which attracted his attention. His conclusion was that " it 
appears to me to be extremely difficult, if not quite impos- 
sible, to form any distinct idea of anything capable of being 
excited and communicated in the manner the heat was 
excited and communicated in those experiments, except it 
be motion." 

Sir Humphry Davy showed that ice could be melted by 
friction, even in a vacuum, when everything else in the neigh- 
bourhood was at the freezing-point. His view was that 
heat is not matter, but " may be defined as a peculiar " motion, 
probably a vibration of the corpuscles of bodies tending to 
separate them. Davy states that his experiments on the 
generation of heat " were made long before the publication 
of Count Rum ford's ingenious paper on the heat produced 
by friction." The pity is that he did not pursue such a 
promising line of investigation. If he had taken his state- 
ments into account with the second interpretation of New- 
ton's third law, he would have anticipated Joule and 

Thomas Young, physician, physicist, and Egyptologist, 
directed his many-sided attention to this problem. We draw 
attention to Young because he bears a striking resemblance to 
Helmholtz. Both were remarkable for versatility and origin- 
ality ; both possessed a vast extent of knowledge ; both were 
physicists and physiologists ; and both conducted fundamental 
researches. Helmholtz says of this Somersetshire scientist : 
" He was one of the most clear-sighted men who have ever 
lived, but he had the misfortune to be too greatly superior in 
sagacity to his contemporaries. They gazed on him with 
astonishment, but could not always follow the bold flights 
of his intellect, and thus a multitude of his most important 
ideas lay buried and forgotten in the great tomes of the 
Royal Society of London, till a later generation in tardy 
advance re-made his discoveries and convinced itself of the 
accuracy and force of his inferences." When Young dis- 
cussed the experiments of Rum ford he inferred that " heat 

* Here I want to say, once for all, what a mine of wealth I find in 
J. T. Merz, A History of European Thought in the Nineteenth Century. 
His four volumes are marked by an insight of understanding and a pene- 
tration of thought rare in books. 


is a quality and that this quality can only be motion." He 
refers to Newton's view that " heat consists in a minute 
vibratory motion of the particles of bodies/' and to his own 
undulatory theory of light. As radiant heat possessed the 
same properties of reflexion, refraction, and polarisation as 
light possessed, the analogy of this form of heat with light 
for a long time served to unify the speculations of those who 
were inclined to embrace a mechanical or kinetic view of the 
nature of heat. James Prescott Joule was the first to eman- 
cipate himself from it. 

We met Liebig when we were considering the problem of 
fermentation, and we meet him again in the attempt to ascer- 
tain the nature of the correlation of forces. As his position 
was amazingly commanding, this is what we should expect. 
Vaguely the notion floated before the mind that there was 
some sort of connection between heat and motion. The 
circulation of matter, its fermentation, the phenomenon of 
animal heat, its origin, and the part it plays in the living 
organism attracted his attention. His width of interests 
naturally compelled him to advocate an alliance of the differ- 
ent sciences. This meant that he speculated about the con- 
nection between them in general and the interdependence of 
the various forces of nature in particular. He is in fact 
one of those invaluable men in science whose general aims 
are of more importance than their particular objects. 
Johannes Miiller also powerfully stimulated thoughts leading 
in the direction of the correlation of all the physical forces 
of nature. Naturally such a teacher stamped this conception, 
directly and indirectly, on the impressionable minds of his 

Clearly we need, as well as the idea, the mind fit to receive 
it. As Heine puts it, what we see depends on our powers 
of sight. The ideas that floated before the minds of 
Liebig and Miiller germinated in the mind of that remark- 
ably original thinker, Karl Friedrich Mohr. In 1837 in a 
Viennese scientific periodical appeared his short memoir " On 
the Nature of Heat." The following are startling words: 
" Besides the known fifty- four chemical elements there exists 
in nature only one agent more, and this is called ' Kraft ' ; 
it can under suitable conditions appear as motion, cohesion, 
electricity, light, heat, and magnetism." The pith of the 


point is undoubtedly in this quotation, yet its publication 
remained unknown, even to the author himself, and fell on 
deaf ^ars throughout the scientific world for more than thirty 
years. He had offered his paper to Poggendorff, who refused 
it. A dread of introducing speculative matter into the 
Annalen was the cause of this refusal, and of the refusal of 
the later papers of Julius Robert Mayer and of Helmholtz. 
Mohr then sent his manuscript to one who was interested in 
theoretical physics, Baumgartner of Vienna, who printed it 
in the Zeitschrift fiir Physik, and never informed the author 
that he had done so. Curiously enough, Mohr himself did 
not note the wonderful discovery he had made, contenting 
himself with inserting a mere abstract of it in the Annalen 
der Pharmacie^ The illuminating conception he held, but 
it does not seem to have occurred to him that he ought to 
measure the amount of energy appearing in diverse forms. 

J. R. Mayer took five years later the next step. In a 
paper published in 1842 he showed that he clearly conceived 
the convertibility of falling force, or of the vis viva, which 
is its equivalent, into heat, which again can disappear as heat 
by re-conversion into work or vis viva as the case may be. 
Sir Gabriel Stokes points out that Mayer drew attention to 
the mechanical equivalent of heat as a fundamental datum, 
like the space through which a body falls in one second, to be 
obtained from experiment .f He went further. When air 
is condensed by the application of pressure, heat is produced. 
Taking the heat so produced as the equivalent of the work 
done in compressing the air, Mayer obtained a numerical 
value of the mechanical equivalent of heat, which, when 
corrected by employing a more precise value of the specific 
heat of air than that accessible to Mayer, does not differ much 
from Joule's result. Sir Gabriel Stokes admits that this was 
a bold idea. He proceeds, however, to observe that one 
essential condition in a trustworthy determination is wanting 
in Mayer's method : the portion of matter operated on does 

* Vol. XXIV, p. 141. On the controversies over the conservation of 
energy, the following works of G. Helm are fair-minded, especially the 
second: Die Lchre von der Energie; Die Energetik nach Hirer geschicht- 
lichcn Entivickelung ; Das Princip der Erhaltung der Energie. 

f Sir J. Larmor, Sir G. G. Stokes, II, p. 51 ; P. G. Tait, Recent 
Advances, pp. 53, 60; J. J. Weyrauch, Klcinere Schriften . . . von R. 
Mayer, pp. 407, 408; G. Helm, Energetik, p. 24; E. Mach, Warmelehre, 
p. 248. 


not go through a cycle of changes.* Mayer reasons as if 
the production of heat were the sole effect of the work done 
in compressing air. But the volume of the air is changed at 
the same time, and it is quite impossible to say a priori 
whether this change may not involve what is analogous to 
the statical compression of a spring, in which a portion or 
even a large portion of the work done in compression may 
have been expended. In that case the numerical result given 
by Mayer's method would have been erroneous, and might 
have been widely erroneous. Hence the practical correct- 
ness of the equivalent given by Mayer's method must not lead 
us to shut our eyes to the merit of Joule in being the first to 
determine the mechanical equivalent of heat by methods 
which are unexceptionable, as fulfilling the essential condi- 
tion that no ultimate change of state is produced in the 
matter operated upon. The happy generalisation of Mohr 
and the numerical estimate of Mohr alike remained unnoticed 
by contemporary philosophers, and indeed similar neglect, 
for a time, fell to the lot of Joule. From 1841 to 1847 he 
laboured without receiving attention from the men of science 
of his day. 

From that distinguished chemist John Dalton, Joule of 
Manchester received his first introduction to chemistry.t In 
1841 he read his first paper " On the Electric Origin of the 
Heat of Combustion," before the Manchester Literary and 
Philosophical Society. In a paper of the year before, " On the 
Production of Heat by Voltaic Electricity/' he showed that he 
had grasped the great importance of the law of electrolytic 
equivalence as affording the means of accurately measuring 
chemical processes. He gave definite expression to the vaguer 
ideas supported by Faraday and others that force was inde- 
structible, and that the different elements of nature were 
mutually convertible. In magneto-electricity he discerned an 
agent capable, by simple mechanical means, of destroying or 
generating heat. Sir Humphry Davy, so far back as 1821, 
had observed the fact that a current produced heat in a con- 

* The italics are Stokes's. 

t A valuable account of Joule's life and work, by Osborne Reynolds, 
will be found in the Joule volume of the Manchester Literary and 
Philosophical Society. It is a matter of regret that there is no adequate 


ductor through which it had passed.* Davy had experi- 
mented on wires of different materials but of the same 
dimensions, arranging them in order according to the magni- 
tude of the heat produced. Joule took a great step in 
advance. For he announced in his 1840 paper and he was 
the first so to announce the definite law that " when a cur- 
rent of voltaic electricity is propagated along a metallic con- 
ductor the heat evolved in a given time is proportional to the 
resistance of the conductor multiplied by the square of the 
electric intensity/' i.e. the electric current.f In the same 
paper he showed that the law applies, when proper allowance 
is made for certain disturbances, to heat produced in electro- 
lytes. The paper also contained the first reference to a 
" standard of resistance " ; this consisted of a coil of 10 feet 
of copper wire '024 inch in thickness. Obviously, we are 
coming close to the conception of the equivalence of heat 
and energy. 

The nearer he was coming to the goal, the more certain he 
determined to make his approaches. He persisted in his 
experiments with the electromotive forces of various forms 
of voltaic cells and the heats of combination of the material 
of the cells. The results of his experiments down to 1843 
are summed up in a paper " On the Heat evolved during the 
Electrolysis of Water/' J Here are some of his conclusions : 
" Third Hence it is that, however we arrange the voltaic 
apparatus, and whatever cells of electrolysis we include in 
the circuit, the whole caloric of the circuit is exactly accounted 
for by the whole of the chemical changes. Fourth As was 
discovered by Faraday, the quantity of current electricity 
depends upon the number of atoms which suffer electrolysis 
in each cell, and the intensity depends upon the sum of 
chemical affinities. Now both the mechanical and heating 
powers of a current are (per equivalent of electrolysis in any 
one of the battery cells) proportional to its intensity. There- 
fore the mechanical and heating powers of the current are 
proportional to each other. Fifth The magnetic electrical 
machine enables us to convert mechanical power into heat by 

* Phil. Trans, 1821 ; cf. H. L. F. von Helmholtz, Ueber die Erhaltung 
der Kraft, I, p. 33. 

t Proc. R.S., Dec. 17, 1840; G. Helm, Energetik, p. 34. 
t Mem. Manchester Lit. and Phil. Soc., vol. VII. 
i.e. the electromotive force. 


aid of the electric currents which are induced by it, and I iuivc 
little doubt that by interposing an electric magnetic engine in 
the circuit of a battery a diminution of the heat evolved per 
equivalent of chemical change would be the consequence, 
and that in proportion to the mechanical powers obtained/ 1 
The experimental question referred to in the fifth head was 
soon submitted to a further test, and on August 21, 1843, a 
paper "On the Calorific Effects of Magneto-Electricity and on 
the Mechanical Value of Heat " was read before the British 
Association at Cork.* This paper was as wonderful for its 
detailed knowledge as for its sweeping conclusions. In it 
Joule described a number of experiments in which a small 
electro-magnet was rotated in water in a magnetic field pro- 
duced either by permanent magnets or by a fixed electro- 
magnet. The current induced in the moving coils, the total 
heat generated, and the energy used in maintaining the 
motion were all measured. It was proved that the energy 
used and the heat produced were both proportional to the 
square of the current. Thus a constant ratio exists between 
the heat generated and the mechanical power used in its 
production, so that, in Joule's words, " The quantity of heat 
capable of increasing the temperature of a pound of water by 
one degree of Fahrenheit's scale is equal to ... a mechanical 
force capable of raising 838 pounds to a perpendicular height 
of one foot." f We may say here that the correct result of 
after-years is 778 foot-pounds. In a postscript to his paper 
Joule adds : " I have lately proved experimentally that heat 
is evolved by the passage of water through narrow tubes. . . . 
I thus obtain one degree of heat per pound of water from a 
mechanical force capable of raising 770 pounds to the height 
of one foot. I shall lose no time in repeating and extending 
these experiments, being satisfied that the grand agents of 
nature are by the Creator's fiat indestructible, and that wher- 
ever mechanical force is expended an exact equivalent of 
heat is always obtained." 

The details were ample, and the conclusion was no less 
ample. Heat had long been suspected to be a form of energy, 
and at last it had been verified to be a form of energy. From 

* Phil Mag., 3rd ser., vol. XXIII ; Collected Papers, I, p. 123. 
t G. Helm, Energctik, p. 34; J- P. Joule, Scientific Papers, p. 328; 
H. L. F. von Helmholtz, Ueber die Erhaltung dcr Kraft, I, p. 33. 


at least the days of Lavoisier men had been working at this 
hypothesis, and now their work was practically over. One 
pictures with what satisfaction the scientists welcomed this 
striking verification of what they had long dreamt. It is 
melancholy to relate that Joule's wonderful conclusion was 
received with entire incredulity. The fate of Mohr was also 
the fate of Joule. 

The Manchester investigator plainly perceived that more 
experiments were required. Entirely unaware of a sug- 
gestion of Mayer, he proceeded in 1844 to inquire into the 
changes of temperature due to the rarefaction and condensa- 
tion of the air. In another fashion he arrived at a fresh 
determination of the mechanical equivalent of heat. In this 
paper he combated the views of Carnot and Clapeyron, and 
put forth once more his own conclusion that the steam in the 
cylinder of an engine loses heat while it is expanding and 
doing work, and that on condensation of the steam the heat 
thus converted into power is not given back. He prepared 
a paper for the Royal Society, but the Royal Society rejected 
it. His own discoveries cleared up the only point that was 
really obscure in Carnot's cycle,* though he failed to perceive 
this. Like Mohr, Joule lived too near to his own results to 
be able to do justice to their many-sidedness. 

The chilling reception of his paper at Cork and the rejec- 
tion of another paper by the Royal Society would have been 
enough to daunt many men. Joule quietly pursued his 
experiments at his small laboratory at Pendlebury and later 
at the one his father built for him at Whalley Range. Two 
years passed, and Joule once more tried his fortune with a 
paper read before the British Association at Oxford. In 
the new apparatus brass paddles revolving in a fluid were 
propelled by the descent of weights. Joule's account of the 
circumstance by which he attracted attention, written in 
1885, is worth recording: 

" It was in the year 1843 that I read a paper ' On the 
Calorific Effects of Magneto-Electricity and the Mechanical 

* In this cycle Carnot conceived that heat should be given to a pre- 
scribed quantity of air or steam ; then the hot fluid should expand, doing 
work, but becoming cooler as it expanded, and giving put its heat to the 
refrigerator; then it should be compressed to its original volume and 
brought to the same pressure and temperature to recommence the cycle. 
This cycle is reversible. 


Value of Heat ' to the Chemical Section of the British Asso- 
ciation assembled at Cork. With the exception of some emi- 
nent men, among whom I recollect with pride Dr. Apjohn, the 
president of the section, the Earl of Rosse, Mr. Eaton Hodg- 
kinson, and others, the subject did not excite much attention ; 
so that when I brought it forward again at the [Oxford] 
meeting in 1847 ^ le chairman suggested that, as the business 
of the section pressed, I should not read my paper, but confine 
myself to a short verbal description of my experiments. This 
I endeavoured to do, and discussion not being invited, the 
communication would have passed without comment if a 
young man had not risen in the section, and by his intelligent 
observations created a lively interest in the new theory. The 
young man was William Thomson, who had two years pre- 
viously passed the University of Cambridge with the highest 
honour, and is now probably the foremost scientific authority 
of the age." * 

Thomson's version, given in 1882, is also worth recording: 
" I made Joule's acquaintance at the Oxford meeting, and 
it quickly ripened into a life-long friendship. I heard his 
paper read at the section, and felt strongly impelled to rise 
and say that it must be wrong, because the true mechanical 
value of heat given, suppose to warm water, must for small 
differences of temperature be proportional to the square of 
its quantity. I knew from Carnot's law that this must be 
true (and it is true; only I now call it ' motivity ' in order 
not to clash with Joule's 'mechanical value'). But as I 
listened on and on I saw that (though Carnot had vitally 
important truth not to be abandoned) Joule had certainly a 
great truth and a great discovery, and a most important 
measurement to bring forward. So instead of rising with 
my objection to the meeting, I waited till it was over, and 
said my say to Joule himself at the end of the meeting. 
This made my first introduction to him. After that I had 
a long talk over the whole matter at one of the conversaziones 
of the Association, and we became friends from thence- 
forward. However, he did not tell me that he was to be 
married in a week or so; but about a fortnight later I was 
walking down from Chamounix to commence a tour of Mont 
Blanc, and whom should I meet walking up but Joule, with 
* Collected Papers, II, p. 215; Lord Kelvin, Popular Lectures, II, p. 556. 


a long thermometer in his hand, and a carriage with a lady 
in it not far off. He told me that he had been married 
since we parted at Oxford! and he was going to try for 
elevation of temperature in waterfalls. We trysted to meet 
a few days later at Martigny, and look at the Cascade de 
Sallanches to see if it might answer. We found it too much 
broken into spray. . . . Joule's paper at the Oxford meeting 
made a great sensation. Faraday was there and was much 
struck with it, but did not enter fully into the new views. It 
was many years after that before any of the scientific chiefs 
began to give their adhesion. It was not long after when 
Stokes told me that he was inclined to be a Joulite. 

" Miller and Graham, or both, were for many years quite 
incredulous as to Joule's results, because they all depended 
on fractions of a degree of temperature, sometimes small 
fractions. His boldness in making such large conclusions 
from such very small observational effects is almost as note- 
worthy and admirable as his skill in extorting accuracy from 
them. I remember distinctly at the Royal Society, I think 
it was either Graham or Miller saying simply he did not 
believe in Joule because he had nothing but hundredths of a 
degree to prove his case by/' * 

Endowed as he was with the magnificent audacity of youth, 
Thomson found himself at first, and for many months to 
come, unable to accept what Joule had laid down. To his 
brother James he wrote after the meeting : " I enclose Joule's 
papers, which will astonish you. I have only had time to 
glance through them as yet. I think at present that some 
great flaws must be found. Look especially to the rare- 
faction and condensation of air, where something is decidedly 
neglected in estimating the total change effected in some of 
the cases." Thomson felt quite convinced that work could 
be turned into heat. But could heat be turned into its 
equivalent of work? This he could not, in spite of Joule's 
reasoning, accept. Dominated by the reasoning of Carnot, 
Thomson saw that heat could furnish motive power when 
being let down from a higher to a lower temperature, or 
when passing from a hotter to a colder body. Unlike Joule, 
he could not as yet perceive that this would still be true even 

* S. P. Thompson, Life of Lord Kelvin, I, p. 264; Nature, XXVI, 
p. 618. 


if during the transference some portion of heat disappeared, 
as heat, to be converted into its equivalent in work. In 
another account of the Oxford meeting given by Thomson in 
1893, at the unveiling of the Joule statue in Manchester, he 
declared that he was " tremendously struck with the paper," 
and added, " This is one of the most valuable recollections of 
my life, and is indeed as valuable a recollection as I can con- 
ceive in the possession of any man interested in science." * 
Nevertheless, his attitude in 1847 was one f warm approval 
mixed with disapproval 

On his return to Manchester, Joule continued his 
experiments on the production of heat by friction. 
The results were communicated to the Royal Society by 
Faraday on June 21, 1849, and this time the Council printed 
his paper " On the Mechanical Equivalent of Heat." f 
Joule mentions in it the series of observers who preceded 
him. As the outcome of fresh experiments, conducted with 
the utmost care, he concludes that " the quantity of heat 
capable of increasing the temperature of a pound of water 
(weighed in vacuo, and taken at between 55 and 60 Falir.) 
by i Fahr. requires for its evolution the expenditure of a 
mechanical force represented by the fall of 772 Ib. through 
the space of one foot." For nearly thirty years this result 
of Joule's stood alone as the one satisfactory determination 
of a most important physical constant. Writing in the 
Proceedings of the American Academy for Arts and Sciences 
on June n, 1879, Professor Rowland of Baltimore points 
out : " We find that the only experimenter who has made the 
determination with anything like the accuracy demanded 
by modern science, and by a method capable of giving good 
results, is Joule, whose determination of thirty years ago, 
confirmed by some recent results to-day, stands almost, if 
not quite, alone among accurate results of the subject." 
Professor Rowland undertook fresh experiments, and con- 
cluded that the difference between his own results and those 
of Joule is " not greater than I in 400, and is probably less." 
So thought an American expert in 1879, but so did not 
think the observers in 1850. 

Lord Rayleigh in his biography of his father, the eminent 

* S. P. Thompson, Life of Lord Kelvin, I, p. 265. 

f Phil Trans., 1850, pt. i; Collected Papers, I, p. 298. 


scientist, reveals the limitations of Thomson in arresting 
fashion. He lived in a pre-Joule world, and he found it 
excessively difficult to assimilate the ideas of that world 
with those he had learnt at Cambridge. In spite of the 
experiments of Joule, Thomson declares in 1848 that " the 
conversion of heat (or caloric) into mechanical effect is 
probably impossible, certainly undiscovered." * In actual 
engines for obtaining mechanical effect through the agency 
of heat, we must consequently look for the source of power, 
not in any absorption and conversion, but merely in a trans- 
mission of heat. In a footnote appended to the word " im- 
possible " in the sentence quoted, he adds : " This opinion 
seems to be universally held by those who have written on 
the subject. A contrary opinion, however, has been advocated 
by Mr. Joule of Manchester; some very remarkable discover- 
ies which he has made with reference to the generation of 
heat by the friction of fluids in motion, and some known 
experiments with magneto-electric machines, seeming to indi- 
cate an actual conversion of mechanical effect f into caloric. 
No experiment, however, is adduced in which the converse 
operation is exhibited ; but it must be confessed that, as yet, 
much is involved in mystery with reference to these funda- 
mental questions of Natural Philosophy." He had either 
not read the evidence of Joule's experiments or else, in fear 
of Carnot's reasoning, he doubted their relevancy. 

Thomson was an unbelieving Thomas, but he was also an in- 
vestigating Thomas. He expounded in a paper read before the 
Royal Society of Edinburgh the Carnot cycle in detail, study- 
ing the writings of Regnault and of Joule. $ He persists in 
employing the term " mechanical effect " for work performed, 
and persists in accepting as axiomatic " the ordinarily received 
and almost universally acknowledged " principle that in the 
cycle of operations as much heat must leave the body as 
entered it. Though he admits the urgent necessity of a 
most careful examination of the entire experimental basis of 
the theory of heat and though he turns to Joule and to the 
evidence which previously he had ignored, he sums up thus : 
" In the present state of science, however, no operation is 

* Lord Kelvin, Mathematical and Physical Papers, I, p. 102. 
t This expression denotes work done. 

j Trans. R. Soc. Edin., XVI, p. 541 ; Lord Kelvin, Mathematical and 
Physical Papers, I, p. 113. Cf. also Ann. de Chitnie, XXXV, p. 248, 1852. 


known by which heat can be absorbed into a body without 
either elevating its temperature, or becoming latent, and 
producing some alteration in its physical condition; and the 
fundamental axiom adopted by Carnot may be considered as 
still the most probable basis for an investigation of the motive 
power of heat." 

Thomson was evidently still an unbeliever, denying any 
conversion of heat or caloric into mechanical effects. In 
inquiring into the thermal agency spent in conducting heat 
through a solid, Thomson asks, What becomes of the 
mechanical effect which it might produce? Nothing, he 
heartily believes, can be lost in the operations of nature, for 
no energy can be destroyed. What effect then is produced in 
place of the mechanical effect which is lost? He continues : 
41 A perfect theory of heat imperatively demands an answer to 
this question, yet no answer can be given in the present state 
of science. A few years ago a similar confession must have 
been made with reference to the mechanical effect lost in a 
fluid set in motion in the interior of a rigid closed vessel, and 
allowed to come to rest by its own internal friction; but in 
this case the foundation of a solution of the difficulty has 
been actually found, in Mr. Joule's discovery of the genera- 
tion of heat by the internal friction of a fluid in motion. 
Encouraged by this example, we may hope that the very 
perplexing question in the theory of heat by which we are 
at present arrested, will, before long, be cleared up. It 
might appear that the difficulty would be entirely avoided by 
abandoning Carnot's fundamental axiom. ... If we do so, 
however, we meet with innumerable other difficulties in- 
superable without further experimental investigation, and an 
entire reconstruction of the theory of heat from its founda- 
tion. It is in reality to experiment that we must look either 
for a verification of Carnot's axiom, and an explanation of 
the difficulty we have been considering; or for an entirely 
new basis of the theory of heat." The very experiments he 
desired had already been supplied by Joule, covering the exact 
point raised by Thomson. Blinded by pre-conceived notions 
Thomson could not perceive the whole meaning either of 
the papers or of the experiments of Joule.* 

* For Thomson's later views, cf. S. P. Thompson, Life of Lord Kelvin, 
I, pp. 440, 529. 


We have seen that the papers of Joule met with entire 
incredulity at Cork by men of the scientific rank of Dr. 
Apjohn, Lord Rosse, and Eaton Hodgkinson; with rejection 
at the hands of the Royal Society of London; and with 
hostility for many years on the part of the scientific chiefs. 
The fate of Joule was indeed to be the fate of Helmholtz. 

We left our study of Helmholtz at the stage when the 
consideration of the causes of the changes observable in 
energy was taking hold of his thoughts. He returned to his 
labours on animal heat again and again, knowing nothing of 
the labours of Mayer* and Joule. He watched the exchanges 
of matter that occur in connection with muscular contractions, 
noting that such exchanges are invariably accompanied by 
the disengagement of heat. Did not this indicate that animal 
heat, as produced by a muscle, arises from the chemical 
phenomena occurring in the muscle? Just as Joule and 
Thomson watched the mechanical engine, so Helmholtz 
watched the human engine. He was able to establish that 
the heat of the combustion of food, as determined by a 
calorimeter, is equal to the heat given off by an animal. In 
effect, an animal is a living calorimeter in which foodstuffs 
are oxidised or burnt. 

The researches on muscular motion and on heat inevitably 
led the investigator far afield. What, for instance, is the 
relation of the forces of nature to each other? What is the 
relation of these forces to the phenomena of life? What is 
life? Is it to be explained by the interplay of the mechanical 
processes at work in the outer world? Was there what 
thinkers of the older and idealistic schools aimed at by em- 
ploying such terms as the " vis viva " of Leibniz, the " vital 
force "of Stahl and Bichat, the " purpose and finality "of 
Kant, the " nisus formativus " of Blumenbach, " the Idea " 
of Hegel and Claude Bernard, or the " inherent tendency " 
of von Baer? Between the two extremes of considering life 
as a universal property of all matter and of considering it as 
a casual and accidental occurrence attached to rare and ex- 
ceptional conditions, there was room for much variety of 
opinion. Vitalists like Bichat insisted on the independence, 

* Cf. J. J. Weyrauch, Klcincrc Schriftcn und Brief e von Robert Mayer, 
which forms a supplement to the edition by the same author of R. 
Mayer's Schriften, entitled, Die Mechanik dcr Wtirme. 


the incommensurability, and the originality of life which he 
defined as the totality of those functions which resist death. 
According to Claude Bernard, " L'element ultime du phe- 
nomene est physique; Tarrangement est vital." * In accept- 
ing a mechanical conception, we must be careful not, he 
thinks, to fall into the common mistake of trying to explain 
vital processes as due directly to mechanical causes. In 1783 
Lavoisier and Laplace had presented a memoir to the Paris 
Academy of Sciences, in which they attributed the generation 
of animal heat mainly to a process of combustion which 
took place by the conversion of oxygen into fixed air during 
the process of respiration. Other chemists, stimulated by 
this memoir, applied the new science of chemistry to ques- 
tions of the individual and collective life of organisms. The 
ideas of Liebig led to the extension of the idea of " Stoff- 
wechsel " (that is, the continual change of matter connected 
with maintenance of form in all living things) so as to 
embrace heat, light, electricity, and the like. In the world 
of Helmholtz, accordingly, there was the view that the living 
body was only a minute portion of the mechanism of the 
cosmos, and there was also the view that there was some- 
thing beyond, some spiritual fuel continually being added to 
its vital fires. Helmholtz thought that if life was fed from 
such force of external energy, then the living body was an 
example of a perpetuum mobile, a perpetual motion, an idea 
he had often heard ridiculed in the philosophical discussions 
that were not infrequent in his father's home. 

Considerations like these induced Helmholtz, in his twenty- 
sixth year, to write his paper " Ueber die Erhaltung der 
Kraft" on the Conservation of Energy. In the days to come 
Clerk Maxwell was to acclaim it just as the generation after 
the printing of Joule's paper acclaimed his. Clerk Maxwell 
wrote : " To appreciate to the full the scientific value of 
Helmholtz's little essay on the Conservation of Force, we 
should have to ask those to whom we owe the greatest dis- 
coveries in thermo-dynamics and other branches of modern 
physics, how many times they have read it over, and how 
often during their researches they felt the weighty state- 
ment of Helmholtz acting on their minds like an irresistible 

* C. Bernard, Leqons sur les phenombnes dc la vie, II, p. 524. 


driving power." As Lavoisier had rendered the persistence 
of matter the fundamental principle of chemistry, so Helm- 
holtz rendered the conservation of force the fundamental 
principle of physics.* He showed how it could be con- 
sidered as an extension of the theorem known in abstract 
dynamics as the conservation of the vis viva of a mechanical 
system. Sharply distinguishing between active (work) 
forces and mere tensions (dead forces), Helmholtz proceeds 
to draw all other forces of nature into his consideration, 
showing, in the case of the phenomena of heat, electricity, 
galvanism, and magnetic induction, how the different agencies 
can be brought into comparison with mechanical ones by 
measuring the work they perform. Referring to the attempts 
to fix the mechanical value of heat, he ends with the words : 
" I think in the foregoing I have proved that the above- 
mentioned law does not go against any hitherto known facts 
of natural science, but is supported by a large number of them 
in a striking manner. I have tried to enumerate as com- 
pletely as possible what consequences result from the com- 
bination of other known laws of nature, and how they 
require to be confirmed by other experiments. The aim of 
this investigation, and what must excuse me likewise for its 
hypothetical sections, was to explain to natural philosophers 
the theoretical, practical, and heuristic importance of the law, 
the complete verification of which may well be looked upon 
as one of the main problems in the near future." 

It is sad to have to record that the prophet was not received 
with honour in his own country. Mohr and Mayer, Joule 
and Helmholtz all met with the keenest hostility. As soon 
as the paper was read, Helmholtz sent it to Gustav Magnus. 
He declined to express an opinion on its worth, as he thought 
there should be a distinction between mathematical and ex- 
perimental physics. He warned Helmholtz against undue 
partiality for mathematics, and the attempt to bring remote 
provinces of physics together by its means. We have it on the 
authority of Du Bois Reymond that only Jacobi, who him- 
self had already done excellent work in mechanics, saw its 
merit. Helmholtz, referring in after-years to this opposition, 
said he was met by some of the older men by such a remark as 

* H. L. F. von Helmholtz, Gesammelte Abhandlungen, I, p. 67. Cf 
E. T. Whittaker, History of the Theories of Aether, pp. 240-3. 



this : " This has already been well known to us ; what does 
this young medical man imagine when he thinks it necessary 
to explain so minutely all this to us?"* Poggendorf 
thought that the subject-matter was not in his opinion suffi- 
ciently experimental to justify him in publishing it in the 
Annalen. The older physicists of Berlin like Dove and 
Reuss would not admit the principle of the conservation of 
energy. They seemed to fear that the speculations of the 
paper would revive the phantasm of Hegel's " nature-philo- 
sophy/' against which they had fought so long, and in the 
end so successfully. Distinguished mathematical colleagues 
like Eisenstein and Lejeune-Dirichlet seconded the opposition 
of Dove and Reuss. 

Some of this opposition sprang from the confusion in the 
use of the term " force." Force might mean pressure or dead 
force, in the Newtonian sense, or it might mean acting force, 
vis viva in the Leibnizian sense. One way out of this diffi- 
culty was to employ the term " work," as Clausius suggested 
in 1850, or the term " energy," as Thomson suggested in 
1852 in his adaptation of Young's already exact terminology. 

Mohr,f Mayer, and Helmholtz gave few new experimental 
facts, and as the German physicists were just escaping from 
the dominance of " nature-philosophy " they felt afraid that 
they had expelled it in one form only to witness its re-entry 
in another. Such a consideration is of no avail, however, 
when we come to the papers of Joule, who provided amply 
experimental verification of the views he put forward. 
There is, according to the old proverb, none so blind as those 
who won't see, and it is melancholy to behold men refuse to 
accept the truth vouched for by experiment after experiment. 

Those who wished to disparage what Helmholtz had 
brought to light said that he had borrowed the idea from 
Mayer, but the singular matter is that Helmholtz had never 
heard of Mayer's or Joule's papers. The law of the con- 
servation of energy, like most scientific laws, had to face the 
opposition of the scientists who found it contradicted some of 

* Cf. his Redcn, II, p. 46; his Wisscnschaftliche Abhandlungen, I, p. 73. 

t Cf. his Allgcmcine Thcorie der Bewcgung und dcr Kraft, p. 82; 
J. J. Weyrauch, Kleiner e Schriften . . . von R. Mayer, p. 190; H. L. F. von 
Helmholtz, Wissenschaftliche Abhandlungen, I, p. 71 ; his Vortrage und 
Redcn, pp. 39, 69 ; J. von Leibig, Die organische Chemie, p. 183. 


the principles they held.* The day was to come when they 
were to admit it. That day, however, was not yet. Kirchhoff 
estimated this universal principle of Helmholtz as the most 
important contribution to natural science made in our era. 
This estimate came twenty years later. Hertz, the discoverer's 
greatest pupil, could say that by it " physical research had 
been diverted into an entirely new channel. Under the over- 
mastering influence of Helmholtz's discovery of the conser- 
vation of energy, its object was henceforward to refer all 
phenomena in the last resort to the laws which govern the 
transformation of energy/' At the close of 1853, Clausius 
published in the Annalcn an attack upon Helmholtz's memoir 
on the conservation of energy, conveying the impression to 
non-mathematical physicists that his conclusions were erro- 
neous. " The die is cast/' wrote Kepler, " I have written my 
book. It will be read ; whether in the present age or by pos- 
terity matters little. It can wait for its readers." Helmholtz 
could and had to wait for his readers. He became con- 
vinced of the universal validity of the law of energy for all 
natural processes of the non-living as of the living world, and 
thus arrived at the law of the conservation of energy. Its 
discovery rendered a cohererit structure of theoretical 
mechanics possible. The concept of force retreated into the 
background; mass and energy emerged as indestructible 
physical quantities. 

We can scarcely read of the far-reaching discovery of the 
German scientist without noting how little share experiment 
played in it. Nor need we greatly wonder at this. He 
delighted in describing how Faraday had with a mysterious 
instinct made the most pregnant discoveries in natural science, 
though he was unable subsequently to give any lucid account 
of the train of ideas that led to them.f The intuition of 
the Irish scientist was shared in no mean degree by the Ger- 
man. This comes out in the reference of the latter to the 
former. " It is," Helmholtz confesses, " very hard to define 
new abstractions in universal propositions, so as to avoid mis- 
understandings of all kinds. It is, as a rule, much harder 

* Cf . the application Lord Balfour makes in his Theism and Humanism, 
pp. 220 ff. E. Meyerson, in his Identite et Realitc, is singularly illu- 

t L. Koenigsberger, Hermann von Helmholts, p. 248. 


for the creator of such a new idea to make out why others 
fail to understand him, than it had been to discover the new 
truth. I will not disparage Faraday's contemporaries, be- 
cause his words appeared to them uncertain and dark sayings. 
I remember too well how often I have sat gazing hopelessly 
at one of his descriptions of lines of force, of their number 
and tensions, or have sought to puzzle out the meaning of 
some law in which the galvanic current is treated as an axis 
of force, and so on. A Clerk Maxwell was required, a 
second man of the same depth and independence of insight, to 
build up in the normal forms of our systematic thinking the 
great structure whose plan was present to Faraday's mind, 
which he saw clear before him, and endeavoured to render 
apparent to his contemporaries/'* 

To this insight, this intuition, Helmholtz harks back. In 
the preface to his translation of Tyndall's Fragments of 
Science, he describes in clear and beautiful language the im- 
portance of the classics in the development of a moral and 
aesthetic sense, and in the evolution of an intuitive knowledge 
of human sensations, ideas, and conditions of civilisation.! 
In his speech on the commemoration of his seventieth birth- 
day, November 2, 1891, he pointed out: "There are many 
narrow-minded people who admire themselves enormously if 
they have one stroke of luck, or think that they have had one. 
A pioneer in science, or an artist, who has a repeated run of 
happy accidents, is indubitably a privileged character, and is 
recognised as a benefactor of mankind. But who can count 
or weigh such lightning flashes of the mind? Who can trace 
out the secret threads by which our conceptions are united? 


Was vom Menschen nicht gewusst, 

Oder nicht bedacht, 
Durch das Labyrinth der Brust 

Wandelt in der Nacht. 

11 1 must confess that the departments in which one has not 
to trust to lucky accidents and inspirations have always had 
the greatest attraction for me. Yet as I have often been in 
the predicament of having to wait on inspiration, I have had 
some few experiences as to when or how it came to me, 

* L. Koenigsberger, Hermann von Helmholte, p. 293. 
t Ibid., p. 212. 


which may perhaps be of use to others. Often enough it 
steals quietly into one's thoughts and at first one does not 
appreciate its significance ; it is only sometimes that another 
fortuitous circumstance helps one to recognise when, and 
under what conditions, it occurred to me; otherwise it is 
there, without effort, like a flash of thought. So far as my 
experience goes it never comes to a wearied brain, or at the 
writing-table. I must first have turned my problem over 
and over in all directions, till I can see its twists and windings 
in my mind's eye, and run through it freely, without writing 
it down ; and it is never possible to get to this point without 
a long period of preliminary work. And then, when the con- 
sequent fatigue has been recovered from, there must be an 
hour of perfect bodily recuperation and 'peaceful comfort, 
before the kindly inspiration rewards one. Often it comes in 
the morning on waking up, according to the lines I have 
quoted from Goethe (as Gauss also noticed, Works, V, p. 
609 : Law of Induction discovered January 23, 1835, at 7 a - m * 
before rising). It came most readily, as I experienced at 
Heidelberg, when I went out to climb the wooded hills in 
sunny weather. The least trace of alcohol, however, sufficed 
to banish it. Such moments of fertile thought were truly 
gratifying, but the obverse was less pleasant when the inspira- 
tion would not come. Then I might worry at my problem 
for weeks and months, till I felt like the creature on the 
barren heath 

Von einem bosen Geist im Kreis herumgefuhrt, 
Und ringsumher ist schone griine Weide. 

Sometimes nothing but a severe attack of headache could 
release me from my spell, and set me free again for other 
interests/' * 

On April 5, 1881, Helmholtz delivered the Faraday lec- 
ture to the Chemical Society " On the Modern Development 
of Faraday's Conception of Electricity," in the course of 
which he gave not merely an estimate of the Irish physicist 
but also threw light on the question of insight. His words 
in opening the lecture are so characteristic of Helmholtz as 
to merit quotation : 

" The facts which he [i.e. Faraday] discovered are uni- 
* L. Koenigsberger, Hermann von Helmholtz, p. 208. 


versally known. Every physicist, at present, is acquainted 
with the rotation of the plane of polarisation of light by 
magnetism, with dielectric tension and diamagnetism, and 
with the measurement of the intensity of galvanic currents 
by the voltameter, while induced currents act on the tele- 
phone, are applied to paralysed muscles, and nourish electric 
light. Nevertheless, the fundamental conceptions by which 
Faraday was led to these much admired discoveries have not 
received an equal amount of consideration. They were very 
divergent from the trodden path of scientific theory, and 
appeared rather startling to his contemporaries. His prin- 
cipal aim was to express in his new conceptions only facts, 
with the least possible use of hypothetical substances and 
forces. This was really an advance on general scientific 
method, destined to purify science from the last remnants 
of metaphysics. Faraday was not the first, and not the 
only man, who has worked in this direction, but perhaps 
nobody else at his time did so radically. But every reform 
of fundamental and leading principles introduces new kinds 
of abstract notions, the sense of which the reader does not 
catch in the first instance. Under such circumstances, it is 
often less difficult for a man of original thought to discover 
new truth than to discover why other people do not under- 
stand and do not follow him. This difficulty must increase 
in Faraday's case, because he had not gone through the same 
common course of scientific education as the majority of 
his readers. Now that the mathematical interpretation of 
Faraday's conceptions regarding the nature of electric and 
magnetic forces has been given by Clerk Maxwell, we see 
how great a degree of exactness and precision was really 
hidden behind the words, which, to Faraday's contemporaries, 
appeared either vague or obscure; and it is in the highest 
degree astonishing to see what a large number of general 
theorems, the methodical deduction of which requires the 
highest powers of mathematical analysis, he found by a kind 
of intuition,* with the security of instinct, without the help 
of a single mathematical formula. I have no intention of 
blaming his contemporaries, for I confess that many times 
I have myself sat hopelessly looking upon some paragraph 
of Faraday's description of lines of force, or of the galvanic 

* I italicise this word. 


current being an axis of power, etc. A single remarkable 
discovery may, of course, be the result of a happy accident, 
and may not indicate the possession of any special gift on 
the part of the discoverer; but it is against all the rules of 
probability that the train of thought which has led to such 
a series of surprising and unexpected discoveries, as were 
those of Faraday, should be without a firm, although perhaps 
hidden, basis of truth. We must also in his case 
acquiesce in the fact, that the greatest benefactors of man- 
kind usually do not obtain a full reward during their life- 
time, and that new ideas need the more time for gaining 
general assent the more really original they are, and the 
more power they have to change the broad path of human 
knowledge." * 

* Helmholtz, Vortragc und Redcn, II, p. 277. 



THE conception of evolution occupies no mean part in theories 
of the universe so far back as six centuries before our era. 
To the early philosophers of India no less than to those of 
Greece, our globe, without haste and without rest, was 
changing. Talking with Matthew Arnold in 1871, J. W. 
Judd heard him say, " I cannot understand why you scientific 
people make such a fuss about Darwin. Why, it's all in 
Lucretius ! " On Judd replying, " Yes ! Lucretius guessed 
what Darwin proved/' he mischievously rejoined, "Ah! 
that only shows how much greater Lucretius was for he 
divined a truth, which Darwin spent a life of labour in 
groping for." 

The intuition of the classical poets and writers is as 
evident in the history of atomism as it is in evolutionism. 
Democritus (450 B.C.) confidently asserts that the world 
consists of atoms, and that its infinite variety is due to the 
motions and positions of immutable and imperceptible units, 
which, if they are not exactly alike, at least differ less than 
do the visible objects into which they are comprehended. 
He offered no proof for this theory, which, to say the least, 
is not self-evident. Century after century this theory per- 
sisted, and was held with unabated confidence. With the 
Renaissance of science during the sixteenth century it 
acquired fresh vigour. Bacon believed it, and so did Boyle 
and Gassendi. Boyle held it stoutly, and Newton assumed 
it without question and without proof. The first proof of 
the atomic theory was given by John Dalton in 1802. For 
over twelve centuries his views had been more or less held 
without reasons for holding them. When they were put 
forth, it is in keeping with the history of science that Sir 
Humphry Davy and Berthollet were the most conspicuous 
objectors to them. Of course we all admit to-day that 



Dalton started a new era in chemistry. Taken over by 
the physicists, the atomic theory lies at the root of the 
modern theory of gases or liquids, the modern theory of 
matter, the modern theory of heat, and the modern theory 
of electricity. 

This is a very strange story, which becomes no less strange 
when we find the same sort of story in the history of the 
theory of evolution. Haeckel terms Anaximander the 
Milesian (610 547) the prophet of Kant and Laplace in 
cosmogony and of Lamarck and Darwin in biology.* 
Anaximander assumed the idea of the Infinite, or the 
Unconditioned, and on the basis of this assumption he put 
forth a crude form of the nebular hypothesis and of the 
evolution idea. He assumes that matter is primitive and 
indeterminate, that there is necessarily in it eternal energy 
and movement, and that through this energy and movement 
the two original contraries of heat and cold separate. What 
is cold falls to the centre and forms the earth. What is hot 
arises to the circumference and forms the bright fiery bodies 
of the heavens, which are only fragments of what once 
existed as a complete sphere. In process of time this sphere 
burst, forming the stars. The action of the sun's heat on 
the cold earth generated films or bladders, out of which 
proceeded different kinds of imperfectly organised beings: 
they gradually developed into the animals now existing. 
This is quite unlike Epicurus (342 270) and Lucretius 
(95 55), who both imagined animals arising directly out of 
the earth, much as Milton's lion long afterwards pawed its 
way out. The pedigree of man with Anaximander goes 
back to the fishlike creatures which dwelt originally in 
muddy waters, and only as the sun slowly dried up the earth 
did they become by stages fit for life on dry land. He, 
however, confines his conception of progress to the evolution 
of animals and man. He holds that there is a plurality of 
worlds, and according to him one world springs out of 
another. f This idea is also to be found in Heraclitus of 

* Throughout my account of the slow growth of evolutionism, I desire 
to state how ample is my debt to Mr. H. F. Osborn's stimulating book, 
From the Greeks to Darwin. 

t Cf. p. 406 ff. in the appendix on "The Conception of Progress in 
Classical and Renaissance Writers" in my Erasmus and Luther: their 
Attitude to Toleration. 


Ephesus (513 c. 473), who maintains that out of the 
universal conflagration will issue a new world, and this 
process will continue indefinitely. Nevertheless, in spite 
of this continual transformation, Heraclitus does not speak 
of any amelioration in the lot of man. The cardinal fact 
to him was the ceaseless movement in the universe and the 
utter hopelessness of it. With thoughts of the World War 
in our mind, it is easy for us to hold that development 
includes retrogression. There are many side currents as 
well as the main current in the stream of evolution. As 
Huxley pointed out, " So far from any gradual progress 
forming any necessary part of the Darwinian creed, it 
appears to us that it is perfectly consistent with indefinite 
persistence in one state or with a gradual retrogression. 
Suppose, for example, a return of the glacial period and a 
spread of polar climatical conditions over the whole world." * 

Xenophanes (c. 540 c. 500), a pupil of Anaximander, 
agreed with his master's view of the beginning of man. He 
traced the ultimate origin of life to spontaneous generation, 
believing that the sun in warming the earth produced both 
animals and plants, f The physicists like Heraclitus and 
Empedocles, Democritus and Anaxagoras, developed these 

The poetic view of Empedocles of Acragas (c. 490 430) 
is not unlike the scientific conception of Anaximander, who 
was the very first to teach the doctrine of abiogenesis, believing 
that eels and other aquatic forms are directly produced from 
lifeless matter. Empedocles assumes the four elements of 
earth, air, fire, and water. Out of the conflict between love 
and hate emerge plants, animals, and man in succession. The 
greater number of the members of the animals was generated 
by chance. $ After endless efforts on the part of the organs 
to unite, the present shapes are evolved. . Empedocles finds 
the origin of life in abiogenesis or spontaneous generation : 
centaurs, chimaeras, and other creatures he brings under the 
operation of this law.|| In a crude form he lays down the 

* T. H. Huxley, Darwiniana, pp. 90-1. 
t Stobseus, Eclog., I, 224. 
t Parts of Animals, book i. 

Mullach, " Empedoclis Carmina," 314-16, in Frag. Philos. Grac. ; 
Aelian, H.A., XVI, 29; Aristotle, Physics, II, 8. 
|| Lucretius, V, 860. 


theory of natural selection. Aristotle (384 322) in his 
Physics is careful to inform the reader that he derived 
his theory from Empedocles, who merely held the germ of 
an all-important conception. Strangely enough, the idea 
of one stage giving origin to another was absent from his 

Empedocles tries to provide a human beginning for the 
centaurs and chimaeras of Greek mythology. Lucretius 
interpreted this teaching: 

Hence, doubtless, Earth prodigious forms at first 
Gendered, of face and members most grotesque: 
Monsters half-man, half-woman, not from each 
Distant, yet neither total; shapes unsound, 
Footless and handless, void of mouth or eye, 
Or from misjunction, maimed, of limb with limb: 
To act all impotent, or flee from harm, 
Or nurture take, their loathsome days t'extend. 

These sprang at first and things alike uncouth 
Yet vainly; for abhorrent Nature quick 
Checked their vile growths; . . . 

Hence, doubtless, many a tribe has sunk supprest, 
Powerless its kind to gender. For whatever 
Feeds on the living ether, craft or speed, 
Or courage stern, from age to age preserves 
In ranks uninjured : . . . 

Yet Centaurs lived not; nor could shapes like these 
Live ever, from two different natures reared, 
Discordant limbs and powers by powers reversed. 

Compare these lines with those of John Milton : 

The Earth obeyed, and straight 
Opening her fertile womb, teemed at a birth 
Innumerous living creatures, perfect forms, 
Limbed and full grown. Out of the ground up rose 
As from his lair, the wild beast, where he wons 
In forest wild, in thicket, brake, or den; 
Among the trees they rose, they walk'd; 
The cattle in the fields and meadows green : 
Those rare and solitary, these in flocks 
Pasturing at once, and in broad herds upsprung. 
The grassy clods now calv'd; now half appeared 
The tawny lion, pawing to get free 
His hinder parts, then springs, as broke from bonds, 
And rampant shakes his brindled mane. 

If we understand evolution primarily to mean the series 
of slow successive transformations, infinitesimal changes 
which, when taking place, alter the condition of a plant or 
an animal, then there is scarcely a trace of such a doctrine 


in Plato (c. 428 347). He, then, from our standpoint, 
makes but a small contribution to our theme. Still, it is a fact 
of enormous significance that the groundwork of modern 
science, the evolution theory, was laid not by the early 
naturalists or the speculative writers but by the modern 
philosophers, by Descartes (1596 1650) and by Leibniz 
(16461716). What Plato failed to accomplish directly he 
himself accomplished indirectly. He is one of the sources 
of that spirit of mysticism which tends to merge the particular 
in the universal, the temporal in the eternal. He is also 
one of the sources of that idealism which checks the evil 
side of mysticism, for Plato sought the ideal in the real 
world, the world of ideas.* The ancients did not realise 
the modern conception of indefinite progress in a continuous 
direction. If one may use an Irishism, the thought of 
progress backwards was more familiar to them than progress 

Plato conceived society dynamically : Aristotle conceived it 
statically. Order to the latter was heaven's first law. To 
trace the general plan of the human evolution of the human 
race is a task which does not concern him : his is the humbler 
labour of showing under what conditions the City-State can 
realise happiness. Its size, its site, its nearness to the sea, 
its aloofness from the stranger these are the matters in his 
mind. His closest approach to the consideration of the 
ideal is his criticism of the Platonic conception. Has he 
more than a glimpse of scientific progress when he discusses 
changes in medicine which have modified the art of healing? t 
Though he has not the resources of palaeontology at his 
command, he entertains a general conception of the origin 
of higher species from lower. In his consideration of the 
factors of evolution it is amazing to note that he discusses the 
" survival of the fittest " hypothesis, which he states quite 
plainly, and dismisses a theory of adaptive structures in 
animals surprisingly similar to that laid down by Darwin 
almost twenty-three centuries later. In spite of Empedocles, 

* The world of (sensible) experience was to him not real, though 
things partook of the universals, or ideas, which alone were real, and 
contributed, of themselves, a quite different world, viz. the intelligible 
or noumenal. 

t Politics, VII, 13. 


he held that adaptive structures are not produced by natural 

Aristotle's view of the development of life ultimately led 
to the correct interpretation of the Mosaic account of the 
creation, and his view St. Augustine (354 430) cordially 
accepted. Indeed, if the teaching of the African doctor, in 
this respect at least, had remained the teaching of the Church, 
the triumph of the theory of evolution might have been 
anticipated by fourteen centuries.* St. Augustine was an 
observer ; Aristotle was a scientific observer. The latter dis- 
tinguished no fewer than five hundred species of mammals, 
birds, and fishes. Underlying these and other species he 
conceived of a single chain of events, which is among the 
greatest of his achievements: it completely passed out of 
the ken of man till the middle of the nineteenth century. 
Nature, he maintains, proceeds constantly by the aid of 
gradual transitions from the most imperfect to the most 
perfect, while the numerous analogies we find in the various 
parts of the animal scale show that all is governed by the 
same laws. That is, all nature is essentially one in the 
matter of causation. The ascent is from the inorganic to 
the organic, and then comes man, who reaches the highest 
point in one long and continuous process. 

Details were in the mind of Aristotle: so too were 
illuminating principles. He notices the effects of heredity, 
of the influence of one parent or stock, of atavism, of 
reversion. In the Generation of Animals f he analyses the 
heredity theories of Hippocrates (460 357) and Heraclitus, 
which were not unlike those of Democritus, who noted design 
in nature and admired her adaptations. The variety of 
nature moved him just as much as the variety of atoms. 
Aristotle describes the difference between the vegetable and 
the animal world, and marks off the organic world from the 
inorganic. He clearly grasps the principle of adaptation, 
understanding the physiological division of labour in the 
different parts of an organism. Life to him is not a separate 
principle: it is the function of the organism, a view which 
anticipates the doctrine of epigenesis in embryonic develop- 
ment discovered by Harvey (1578 1657). 

* Cf. De Trin., Ill, 8, 9; IV, 21; De Genes, ad Lit., I, 39; De Doct. 
Christ., II, 46. t Generation of Animals, I, sec. 35. 


How did Aristotle arrive at these notable advances? 
Unlike Plato, who trusted intuition, he sometimes trusted 
experiment and deduction,* though at others he revelled in 
a priori thought, to the neglect of fact or observation, like a 
Platonist. To a man with his scientific bent it was im- 
possible to believe in the operation of chance. Nothing, he 
holds, which occurs regularly, can be the result of accident. 
The adaptation manifested in the world obliged him to be- 
lieve in an intelligent First Cause. This theistic tinge 
influenced the early Christians, especially St. Augustine, and 
in time the authority of Aristotle in the Mediaeval Church was 
elevated to a position as exalted as that of the Bible itself. The 
lover of truth must regret -that the conquests of Philip (382 
336) and Alexander (356323) and the loss of national 
independence checked the love of free physical inquiry among 
the Greeks, which promised to be so fruitful. The dynasties 
founded by Alexander's generals left the City-State a mere 
pawn in the game of militarism; the all-conquering arm of 
Rome completed her destruction. In the post-Aristotelian 
period Francis Bacon is right in thinking that for the ancients 
moral philosophy supplied the place of religion. The new 
school of thought is subjective and individualistic. Ethical 
conceptions replace science. The Stoics or the Epicureans 
came into possession of the vacant field. The happiness of 
man was no longer bound up with the welfare of the State. 
For the first time it became possible to lead a private life: 
Diogenes (c. 412 323) and Aristippus (c. 428 350) were 
no longer singular in their conduct. 

The Oriental doctrine of vast chronological cycles forms 
a fundamental tenet of the Stoic school. With its philoso- 
phers the pantheistic notion that God is the creative soul 
of the world was a commonplace. He is the eternal force 
which forms and permeates the world, the spirit of ever- 
acting and living fire, which manifests itself outwardly as 
matter when its heat declines, and burns up matter when its 
heat is intense.f Zeno (c. 362 264), the founder of Stoicism, 
believed that the world would be reabsorbed into the fiery 

* Aristotle, History of Animals, I, 6. 

t Nemesius, De Nat. Horn., c. 38; Polybius, Hist., VI, c. Vff.; 
II, pp. 462, 575 ff. ; Cicero, De Nat. Deor., II, 20, 46, 51 ; Origen, Con. 
Cels., IV; Origen, De Principiis, III, 6. 


ether, which is Reason and God. But how could Reason be 
identified with a material substance which could be burnt? 
Is this absorption final ? The mind of man is so constituted 
that it refuses to derive satisfaction in the conflagration of 
the world. There was one way out of the difficulty, and 
that was to make the movement circular. What had hap- 
pened once could happen again. When the period of 
unification was ended, Zeno forecast the beginning of another 
world-process which would follow the same course as its 
predecessor, ending, like it, in fire. And for ever there lay 
before men the prospect of this unvarying round. To us 
such a notion is abhorrent ; still, we ought to remember that 
men not only in Greece and in India but even in modern 
Europe acquiesce in it. 

From Zeno and other teachers the conclusion was drawn 
that in a necessary and endless succession world after world 
was created and destroyed, each world being exactly like its 
predecessor, and all things in it without exception running 
round in the same order from beginning to end. Aristotle 
maintained that all the arts and sciences have been found 
and lost an infinite number of times already.* Stoicism, in 
some of its aspects, reflects the hopelessness and world- 
weariness which sees in modern progress only " an endless 
effort, and, if need be, by endless pain." The same sombre 
tendency sees no evolution but rather a long series of cycles 
of death and revival, of endless mutations in constant 
progressions: tout lasse, tout passe, tout se re fait. Going 
round in a circle, however, is in no wise the equivalent of 
going on. It is easy to understand Seneca's tcedium vitcr 
when he thought of it, to employ a modern phrase, as an 
infinite recurrent series. He was really to finish nothing, 
for in the revolution of the circle it must come again and 
again to him.f 

At the very time of the early Stoics, Epicurus (342 270) 
was developing a conception of progress, and his philosophy 
contains more than the beginning of the doctrine professed by 

* Politics, II, 5, I264A, 1-5; IV (vii), 10, 13296, 25-7; DC Calo., 
I, 3, 2706, 16-20. 

f Seneca, Ad Lucilium, Ep. XXIV. Cf. DC Tranquillitate Animi, 
ch. i and ii; Horace, Carat., n, 18, 15; Lucretius, DC Natura Rerum, 
III, 920-50. 


the Sophists.* Were it not for Lucretiusf our knowledge 
of Epicurus would be scanty, but he provides us with a full 
account of a notable attempt to get rid of the supernatural. 
The mind of Epicurus conceives the social state not as it ought 
to be but as it actually is. For him, as for Lucretius, the 
important matter is the survey of knowledge and of civilisa- 
tion through past ages. Familiar as he was with Empedocles, 
Epicurus knows that human life has passed from the darkness 
of ignorance to the light of knowledge, the source of all quiet- 
ism and happiness. J The mind of man has at last passed the 
superstitious stage. In truth philosophy has taken the 
place formerly occupied by superstition. Much as Lucretius 
admires Epicurus, he lets fall hints which show, inconsistently 
enough from his standpoint, that the past was better than the 
present. Did not in olden times matters come easily to men ? 
Did they not possess simple joys? Did voyages at sea, did 
war, did luxury claim so many victims as to-day? || Is not 
Nature right to tell man, greedy of pleasure and novelty, 
that she can devise nothing new, for everything returns as 
before? ft Will not the universe one day be destroyed?** 
These questions no doubt are not the bedrock of the thought 
of the poet; still, they are in his On the other hand, 
he argues that as the world is not the handiwork of the gods, 
its increase in intelligence and industry affords evidence of 
progress. Jt Advance, he argues, in material comfort is not 
synonymous with advance in happiness, just as one might 
argue that our material progress is nothing more than an 
extra-flooding wave of an ebbing tide. Lucretius is strikingly 
clear that material and even artistic improvement does 
not increase the happiness of man. 

The view set forth by Lucretius in the fifth book of the 
De Natura Rerum is that the general law of existence is 

* Cf. the speech of Callicles in Plato's- Gorgias. 

t De Nat. Rer., V, nSiff. 

t Ibid., 10. 

Ibid., I, 62 ff. 

II Ibid., II, 1157-745 V, 935 ff-, 988-1010. 

1F Ibid., Ill, 945. 
** Ibid. t II, 1148-74; V, 93-6. 
ft Cf. Ovid, Met., I, 89-150; I, 256-8. 
it De Nat. Rer., II, 181. 
8 Ibid., V, 1379 ff. ; especially 1410. 


change. * Nothing remains as it was in the beginning : one 
thing disappears and is replaced by another: what was 
formerly is to-day impossible, and what has never been will 
yet be realised, f In Lucretius the materialistic and agnostic 
tendencies of Empedocles, Democritus, and Epicurus are 
revived. Aristotle regarded the world as an organism, 
Lucretius as a mechanism. Aristotle is teleological, Lucretius 
is nothing of the kind. The former carries his conception of 
nature into the law of the gradual development of organic 
life; the latter does not. Lucretius, like Parmenides (flor. 
513 B.C.), Democritus, and Anaxagoras (500 428), thinks 
that plants arise directly from the earth, t From Epicurus he 
takes the idea of the survival of the fittest : some men were 
out of harmony with their surroundings, died, and were 
replaced. Still, Aristotle is an evolutionist, and Lucretius is 
just as certainly not. The latter does not believe in gradual 
development by the ascent of the higher forms from the 
lower, though he believes in the successive appearance of 
different forms of life. The animals and plants of Lucretius, 
unlike those of Aristotle, spring from the earth in their 
present form : with them Nature makes a leap. This is not 
evolution in the true sense, yet, curiously enough, it was one 
day to take a great share in the growth of the idea. To Aris- 
totle the process of evolution was like the emergence of the 
plant from under the ground, where its germinative forces 
have been slowly maturing, whereas Lucretius conceived it to 
be the light of a spark for which the explosive train had not 
long been laid. 

Generation succeeds generation: there is no break. The 
notion of continuity means more to Lucretius than to 
Epicurus. The latter is not content with change in 
nature: he believes that there are times in the span of 
existence better than others. Lucretius was well aware that 
in early society force was the only remedy: laws did not 
exist. By virtue of mind men left this condition behind 
them. || No Prometheus brought the fire which the ingenuity 
of human beings discovered.^ Genius has accomplished 
much : so too have the numberless groping efforts of ordinary 

* De Nat. Rer. t V, 828-36. Ibid., V, 959. 

t Ibid., Ill, 964; V, 855-77. II Ibid., V, 1107, 1187. 

} Ibid. 9 V, 780. H Ibid., I, 208-14. 



men. Steady work renders better what was primitive, 
mediocre. According to Lucretius and Epicurus necessity 
has always been the principal agent in progress. To need, 
for example, we owe the names of things : this is the origin 
of language.* To chance was due the first union of men 
and women, and in time conjugal love succeeded. Kings 
built fortified towns, and the cause of progress was served 
by the necessity of avoiding aggression.! On the death of 
kings democracy succeeded, and then came magistrates and 
laws with justice in their hand. Force as the only remedy 
disappeared indefinitely, and the reign of law was ushered in. J 
At the same time human industry took its rise. The first 
instruments of man were his hands, his nails, his teeth, then 
stones, then branches of trees, afterwards the flame and the 
fire. This is the closest approach Lucretius perhaps makes 
to the doctrine of evolution. Later came the metals brass, 
gold, iron, money, lead. The discovery of iron combined 
with the discovery of fire permitted man to manufacture 
implements adapted to agriculture and to war,|| and it assisted 
in the improved clothing the tailor devised.^ Stage by stage 
man developed, and in the course of his development nature 
suggested experiments to him. What nature was doing of 
herself suggested to imitative man the art, for example, of 
grafting. The sighs of the wind through the reeds invited 
man to invent the flute.** Once the stage in which physical 
strength counted for everything was past, music and song 
were cultivated. For the future there is an aesthetic as well 
as a material side to life.f f Throughout all these changes and 
chances man is travelling along the road to improvement of 
his mechanical appliances, the amelioration of his earthly lot. 
Time is required for this advance, for all growth is by 
infinitesimal steps.ij Men do not become men at once; trees 
are only shrubs in their early life. To Lucretius, as to 
Diogenes Laertius (c. 412 323), time produces growth in 
everything. Little by little experience taught man to note 
the regular movements of the heavens and the return of the 

* De Nat. Rer., V, 1450. || Ibid., V, 1281-1307. 

f Ibid., V, 1109-20. ^ Ibid., V, 1350-60. 

J Ibid., V, II43-S5. ** Ibid., V, 1382. 

Ibid., V, 1028-90. ft Ibid., V, 1391. 

Ibid., V, i8iff. Cf. I, 310 ff. 


seasons, foreshadowing the true nature of things. Once 
the will of the gods was deemed sufficient to account for 
everything, whereas now it is abundantly evident that there 
are natural causes at work. Once chance ruled all things in 
heaven and earth, whereas now clearly there is a sameness, an 
orderliness in the phenomena all around us. 

The speculations of Lucretius are evidently expressed in 
the following lines: 

And first the race she reared of verdant herbs, 
Glistening o'er every hill; the fields at large 
Shone with the verdant tincture, and the trees 
Felt the deep impulse, and with outstretched arms 
Broke from their bonds rejoicing. As the down 
Shoots from the winged nations, or from the beasts 
Bristles or hair, so poured the new-born earth 
Plants, fruits, and herbage. Then, in order next, 
Raised she the sentient tribes, in various modes, 
By various powers distinguished: for nor heaven 
Down dropped them, nor from ocean's briny waves 
Sprang they, terrestrial sole; whence, justly, Earth 
Claims the dear name of mother, since alone 
Flowed from herself whatever the sight surveys. 

E'en now oft rears she many a sentient tribe, 
By showers and sunshine ushered into day 
Whence less stupendous tribes should then have risen 
More, and of ampler make, herself new- formed, 
In flower of youth, and Ether all mature. 

Of these birds first, of wing and plume diverse, 
Broke their light shells in springtime : as in spring 
Still breaks the grasshopper his curious web, 
And seeks, spontaneous, foods and vital air. 

Hence the dear name of mother, o'er and o'er, 
Earth claims most justly, since the race of man 
Long bore she of herself, each brutal tribe 
Wild-wandering o'er the mountains, and the birds 
Gay-winged, that cleave, diverse, the liquid air. 

The originality of the conception of Epicurus and Lucretius 
is so remarkable that it is not till the Esquisse of Con- 
dorcet^( 1743 1794) that we meet with a similar theory. 
Evolution there has been in the past: with that Lucretius 
stops. Evolution in the future he scarcely contemplates. He 
catches glimpses of the truth through the clouds, but there is 
no clearness in his vision. 

The elder Pliny (2379) counsels us " firmly to trust that 
the ages go on incessantly improving. " * He, however, 

* Hist. Nat., XIX, 1-4. 


feels more interest in collecting anecdotes than in collecting 
facts. About twelve years after Seneca's death he published 
his book on Natural History. He claims to have read 2,000 
volumes of 100 authors, and in his Latin list he omits Seneca. 
The preface to the Epitome of Roman History which Florus 
(c. 60 138) has written anticipates ideas afterwards de- 
veloped by Postel (1510 1581) andLessing (1729 1781). 
The historian is clear that nations pass through a succession 
of ages similar to those of the individual. " If any one," 
he points out, " will consider the Roman people as if it were 
one man, and observe its entire course, how it began, how 
it grew up, how it reached a certain youthful bloom, and how 
it has since, as it were, been growing old, he will find it to 
have four degrees and stages." It is not important to con- 
sider these four degrees ; it is important to see that an author 
in the reign of Trajan has been able to perceive them. 

Of all the Roman writers on science none has greater claims 
on our attention than Seneca. For real learning he feels a 
genuine interest, but not for the study of what he regards 
as " useless letters/' leaving to the one side such questions 
as whether the same poet wrote the Iliad and the 
Odyssey,* or whether Homer or Hesiod was the earlier, f 
Stoic in the main as he was, he makes fun of the grammatici.% 
Learning was apt to become logomachy, philosophy to become 
philology. He has a sovereign contempt for the 4,000 
volumes acquired by Didymus (52 128), for do they not 
discuss such questions as the birthplace of Homer, the moral 
character of Sappho and of Anacreon, and the like? || 

When he speaks of the restoration of the world, Seneca 
holds that when it pleases God it will produce things. Will 
there not be then the opening of a very happy era in which 
man, born under better auspices, will be ignorant of all crimes 
and will be innocent ? ^ This era, or rather this improved 
world, will, on the Stoic hypothesis, pass away, being re- 
placed through fire by another. The conflagration notion 
made a strong appeal to the feelings, for with it the perpetual 

* Dial, X, 13, 1-9; cf. Quest. Natur., IV, 13, I. 
t Dial., X, 13, sect. 6. 

I Ibid., sect. 3. Ibid., sect, 23. || Ibid., sect. 24-34. 

If Qucest. Natur., Ill, chap, xxvii; cf. Plutarch, De Commun. Nat.; 
]. Lipsius, Physiologic? Stocicorum, libri tres, p. 258. 


struggle between good and evil ceased. In the interval 
between the appearance of a new world the Deity enjoys a 
period of rest, during which he can leisurely meditate upon the 
universe that has vanished into smoke * and plan improve- 
ments in the one he is about to create, f The universe used 
to be happy and innocent. $ Men lived together in the distant 
past in societies, willing to obey the strongest and wisest of 
their number ; none were tempted to wrong their neighbour. 
The " return to nature " notion is plain in his account of 
men dwelling in natural grottos or in the stems of trees, and 
obtaining nourishment from tame animals and wild fruits. 
In process of time they develop the arts, learning to bake, 
to build, and to make use of the metals. According to Seneca, 
his own age is one far removed from primeval simplicity, 
though it is no worse than others. || It is necessary to 
distinguish between moral and material progress. Seneca, 
following Posidonius, believes that man had made progress 
in science and in the material arts of life, but that this 
advance in learning had been accompanied by a moral decline. 
The political economist to-day reckons that the awakening 
of human beings to the need of satisfying their wants is a 
mark in advance, and the greater the range of these wants 
the greater is the advance, whereas to Seneca the reverse 
of the conception held good.fl There used to be no struggle 
for existence: the earth supplied sufficient food for all.** 
The moment gold was discovered, happiness fled: the love of 
it was indeed the root of all evil.ff A crowd now is an 
assembly of savage beasts, a spectacle of vice incarnate. JJ 
This pessimistic outlook on life is in no wise peculiar to 
Seneca: it is characteristic of first- and second-century 
thought. There seems no indication that movement was 

* Seneca, Ep., 9, 16. 
t Quasi. Natur., Ill, 28, 7- 
i Ep., ad Lucilium, 90; Horace, Odes, HI, 14. 
Seneca, Ep., 90, 5. 

|| De Benef., I, 10. 1F Ep., 90, sect. 42. ** Ep., 90, sect. 38. 
ft Ibid.. 90, sect. 5, sect. 12, sect. 19, sect. 36. 
it De Ira, II, 8, sect, i ; cf. II, 8, 9; Ad Marc., II, n, 17, 20. 
Lucretius, De Nat. Rer. f II. 1150, 1174; V, 66-7, 1429-30; Horace, 
Odes, t 2, 14; III, 6; Tac., Hist., I, c. Hi; II, 37; Tac., Ann., Ill, 
cc. xviii and xxyii; IV, c. i; XVI, c. xvi; Cicero, De Opp., I, 
c. xxv ; II, c. viii; III, c. xvii; Tusc. Quast., II, c. ii; Juvenal, 
Satires, 6, 10, T2 f 13, 15; Seneca, De Ira, II, 8, 9; Seneca, Quasi. Natur., 
II, c. xxxv ; III, c. xxx. 


thought of as a spiral and not as an unvarying round. There 
was not what Wordsworth called " the sweet air of futurity," 
or what George Meredith calls " the rapture of the forward 


The security afforded by the Empire was sufficient to 
overcome internal disorders. With the pax Romana around 
him Seneca could indulge in speculations on progress. With 
Huxley he holds that though there are many clever men, 
honest folk are as scarce as ever ; and this thought Rousseau 
(1712 1778) borrowed.* Still, Seneca maintains the 
sciences progress and their applications become more exten- 
sive. The sagacity of men contrives inventions.! We can 
live without science, for nature has allowed animals to exist ; 
but as we create needs we devise arts to satisfy them. We 
receive these discoveries from our forefathers, and when we 
transmit them to our descendants we transmit an enlarged 
inheritance. " There remains yet and there will remain much 
to do; and the man who will be born a thousand years hence 
will not refuse the opportunity of adding something more." J 

The Natural Questions goes far to explain the action 
of Gian Galeazzo in making not only Dante (1265 1321) 
but also Seneca have chairs founded in their memory and 
for discussion of their work. True, it is characterised by 
hypothesis not founded on experiment. True, the author is 
a moralist first, a physical scientist afterwards. To him there 
were no natural phenomena compared with the fascination 
virtue exercised over his soul. To him as to Kant 
(1724 1804) there is a bond between the starry heavens 
above and the moral law within. Throughout the Natural 
Questions he is well aware of the necessity of procuring 
correct data. Men like Lucilius suffered through Seneca's 
desire to have phenomena recorded accurately, especially when 
they were rare. He is anxious to be just to his predecessors : 
" First of all I feel bound to say in general terms that the 
old views are crude and inexact. As yet men were groping 
their way round truth. Everything was new to those who 

* Ep. ad Lucilium, 95; Rouss., Discours sur les sciences et les arts, 
I, p. 20; cf. Montaigne, Essais, bk. I, chap. xxiv. 
t Seneca, Ep., 90; cf. Cicero, De Legibus, I, c. ix. 
j Seneca, Ep., 64. 
Ibid., 73, sect. 13. 


made the first attempt to grasp it ; only later were the subjects 
accurately investigated. But all subsequent discoveries must 
nevertheless be set down to the credit of those early thinkers. 
It was a task demanding great courage to remove the veil 
that hid nature, and, not satisfied with a superficial view, to 
look beneath the surface and dive into the secrets of the 
gods. A great contribution to discovery was made by the 
man who first conceived the hope of its possibility. We must 
therefore listen indulgently to the ancients. No subject is 
perfect while it is but beginning. The truth holds not merely 
of the subject [i.e. earthquakes] we are dealing with, the 
greatest and most complex of all, in which, however much 
may be accomplished, every succeeding age will still find 
something fresh to accomplish. It holds alike in every other 
concern: the first principles have always been a long way 
off from the complete science." * We are here far removed 
from the Platonic notion that the whole body of truth has 
been discovered. If there is the hope of the possibility 
of discovery, there is also the hope of the possibility 
of evolution. 

This is more evident in the next quotation from Seneca: 
" It is not a thousand years since Greece ' counted the number 
of the stars and named them every one.' And there are many 
nations at the present hour who merely know the face of 
the sky and do not yet understand why the moon is obscured 
in an eclipse. It is but recently that science brought home 
to ourselves certain knowledge on the subject. The day 
will yet come when the progress of research through long 
ages will reveal to sight the mysteries of nature that are now 
concealed. A single lifetime, though it were wholly devoted 
to the study of the sky, does not suffice for the investigations 
of problems of such complexity. And then we never make 
a fair division of the few brief years of life as between study 
and vice. It must therefore require long successive ages to 
unfold all. The day will yet come when posterity will be 
amazed that we remain ignorant of things that will seem to 
them so plain." f 

This book of Seneca's was the last word on science spoken 
by the classical world, and it is the only work of importance 

* Qii(ust. Natur., bk. VI, 5. 
t Ibid., bk. VII, 25. 


bearing on science that has come down to us in Latin. Here- 
in he possessed a marked advantage over Aristotle, whose 
Physics was written in Greek, a tongue much less familiar 
to the mediaeval world. True, Lucretius unfolds ingenious 
speculations in the direction of evolution, but Seneca possesses 
true method that makes the discovery of evolution possible. 
The Physics of Aristotle became a text-book of science to 
the men of the Middle Ages. It has been the infinite loss 
of mankind that the two following passages have not sunk 
deeply into the mind of Europe. " Aristotle has finely said/ 1 
remarks Seneca, "that we should never be more reverent 
than when we are treating of the gods. We enter a temple 
with all due gravity, we lower our eyes, draw up our toga, 
and assume every token of modesty, when we approach the 
sacrifice. How much more is all this due when we discuss 
the heavenly bodies, the stars, the nature of the gods, lest 
in ignorance we make any assertion regarding them that is 
hasty or disrespectful ; or lest we unwittingly lie. Let us not 
be surprised that what is buried so deep should be unearthed 
so slowly. . . . But all these questions [i.e. on comets] are 
foreclosed by my statement that they are not accidental fires, 
but inwoven in the texture of the universe, directed by it 
in secret, but not often revealed. And how many bodies 
besides revolve in secret, never dawning upon human eyes? 
Nor is it for man that God has made all things. How small 
a portion of His mighty work is entrusted to us ! " * He then 
proceeds to draw attention to the new discoveries : " How 
many animals we have come to know for the first time 
in our days. Many too that are unknown to us the people 
of a coming day will know. Many discoveries are reserved 
for the ages still to be, when our memory shall have perished. 
The world is a poor affair if it do not contain matter for 
investigation for the whole world in every age. Some of 
the sacred rites are not revealed to worshippers all at once. 
Eleusis contains some of his mysteries to show to votaries 
on their second visit. Nature does not reveal all her secrets 
at once. We imagine we are initiated in her mysteries : we 
as yet but hanging around her outer courts. These secrets 
of hers are not open to all indiscriminately. They are with- 
drawn and shut up in the inner shrine. Of one of them this 
* Quest. Natur., bk, VII, 30, 


age will catch a glimpse, of another the age that will come 
after." * 

In all the classical writings there are no four quotations so 
plain in their views of all that the future holds for the man 
of science. Were such statements much read? Take the 
evidence of Quintilian (40 100), who obviously thought 
Seneca an overrated man and placed Cicero far above him.t 
He has no doubt of the popularity of Seneca in his own 
times. $ Moreover, was he not a Christian who corre- 
sponded with St. Paul? The Fathers reckoned him one of 
themselves. Jerome (345 420) frankly gave him rank 
among recognised ecclesiastical writers. His statements 
must therefore be orthodox. In the Middle Ages he was 
famous as the author of the Natural Questions, and still 
more so as a moralist. Dante terms him " Seneca morale/ 1 
He is quoted by writers like Albert Magnus (c. 1 193 1280), 
Vincent of Beauvais (c. 1200 1264), Walter Burlay (1275 
1357), John of Salisbury (c. mo 1180), and Friar 
John of Wales (died c. 1285), w ^o were acquainted with the 
Natural Questions, and by writers such as Otto of Freisingen 
(died 1158) and Giraldus Cambrensis (c. 1146 1220) 
oftener than Cicero or " Cato." Some of the manuscripts 
of the Natural Questions only contain books I-IV, and this 
was probably the only part generally known. || Books VI 
and VII, which give us the four prophetic quotations, were 
largely unknown. It is therefore not surprising that the 
only mediaeval writer who quotes passages from the Natural 
Questions with a distinct consciousness of the possibility of 
future progress in discovery is Roger Bacon (1214 1292).^ 
Walter Burlay and John of Salisbury knew it indirectly. 
The latter recommends expressly its perusal** and uses terms 
borrowed from it.f f In the Annales Colimenses Maximi,%\ 

* Quasi. Natur., bk. VII, 31. 

t Inst. Orat. f X, i, 125-8. J Ibid., 125. Inf., IV, 141. 

|| There is a copy in the library of St. Augustine's Abbey, Canterbury 
(cf. M. R. James's Ancient Libraries of Canterbury and Dover, p. 305) 
and at Eton (cf. M. R. James's Catalogue of MSS, at Eton College, 
P- 3i). 

H Bacon's Metaphysics, which is in Charles's monograph, quotes 
Qucest. Natur., VI, 5, sects. 2, 3 ; VII, 25, sects. 3, 4. 
** Policraticus, II, 320 (Webb). 

tt Ibid., I, 70; John of Salisbury borrows from Quast. Natur.. I, u. 
1-2. JJ Mon. Germ. Script., XVII. 


A.D. 1235, there is a reference to the section of the Natural 
Questions discussing halves.* It is therefore practically 
certain, however, that all the mediaeval references to this 
book quote it as an authority for natural phenomena except 
in the case of Roger Bacon, who discerns in it an incentive 
to future progress. 

If any one is anxious to understand the originality of 
St. Paul's conception of the future, the ideal method is to 
peruse some of the authors here cited. As one reads them 
one wonders that all save Seneca stop short at the very 
point which is of the greatest interest, the nature of the 
future, the sort of evolution to which it will give rise. 
A perusal of the Natural Questions and then a perusal of the 
Epistle to the Ephesians enable one to grasp in some measure 
the originality of St. Paul. Indeed the true idea of progress 
is a creation of Christianity, forming one of its finest 
achievements. The transition from the Apostle of the 
Gentiles to St. Augustine is easy, for the thoughts of the two 
men were singularly kindred. Theologian as St. Augustine 
primarily is, the invasions of the barbarians forced him to 
become an observer. Society, according to him, is divided 
into two orders : one is the ordinary society of men, the other 
is the society of men who live according to God. Paganism 
represents one city, Christianity the other, f He views the 
history of Rome in the light of the establishment of the 
" Civitas Dei. 5 ' This establishment constitutes progress for 
humanity. J Christianity, however, is no radical innovation 
without roots in the past ; the ages have been a preparation for 
it. In spite of digressions, the Civitas Dei is devoted to 
the moral evolution of history. The providence of God 
in the life of the world is the burden of its message. St. 
Augustine stood as firmly for this belief in the Christian 
world as the Stoic did in the ancient world. This conception 
is indeed the consummation of the moral and religious 
evolution of humanity. The light of God appears every- 
where: it shines under Moses and the prophets; it flickers 
under the patriarchs; and it enlightens the world in Jesus 

* In Apocrypha Anecdota (ed. M. R. James), Cambridge, 1893. 

t De Civ. Dei, XVI, I. 

J Cf. Vincent of Beauvais, XXVI-XXX. 

De Civ. Dei, V, 11 ; cf. V, i. 


Christ, greater than the patriarchs, greater than the prophets. 
With Clement of Alexandria (150 or 160 c. 213) St. 
Augustine recognises that other beliefs, other ideas, prepared 
the time for Him who is the Light of the World.* The 
world advances, thanks to Christianity, towards perfection. 
From God alone comes such a consummation; from Him we 
hope for eternal life. As the world therefore advances, to 
St. Augustine the cycle theory is sheer madness. Jesus 
Christ died once : He will die no more, for death hath no 
more dominion over Him. 

It is noticeable that St. Augustine does not ignore the 
development of industry f through the ages, and makes a 
notable application of it in his consideration of the destiny of 
man. He can allow no activity to be outside or apart 
from God. There is a complete gradation of nature: there 
is also a complete gradation of soul. There is, he observes, a 
wide difference between the evolution of humanity and the 
evolution of the individual. Old age is perfect in the former : 
it is feeble and decadent in the latter. Here is the germ 
of the idea which lies in the background of all the philosophy 
of progress in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. St. 
Augustine perceived it clearly. Limiting himself to the 
study of civilisation which has preceded Christianity, he 
compares the education of the human race to that of a single 
man ; it must follow the progressive succession of the ages in 
order to raise itself, by degrees, from time to eternity, from 
the visible to the invisible, t " Divine Providence, which 
guides marvellously all things, governs the succession of 
generations, from Adam to the end of the ages as a single 
man." In observing the action of God in history St. 
Augustine also observes the successive epochs of humanity, 
the steps towards progress. There are three epochs : youth, 
characterised by the absence of law, from Adam to Abra- 
ham; the virile age from Abraham to Christ, which is the 
epoch of law ; at last, old age, which is the era of Christianity 
and the epoch of grace. || In each of these three epochs there 

* De Civ. Dei, II, especially 28. 

t Ibid., XXII, 24. t Ibid., X, 14; cf. XXII, 24. 

De quastionibus, octoginta tribus, quaestio 58. 

|| De Civ. Dei, XV-XIX. Cf. Godet's striking remark: "L'histoire du 
monde dans essence se resume dans trois mots: il vient; il est venu; il 
revient" (Etudes Bibliques N.T., p. 292). 


are subdivisions, and, following the procedure of the Jewish 
schools, he seeks parallels in other eras. He compares the 
six epochs of the world to the six days of creation, seeking 
analogies between the events of each period and the works 
of each day of creation. For example, the third epoch is 
distinguished by the separation of the people of God from 
other peoples: similarly the third witnessed the separation 
of the earth from the waters. In De Genesi contra Mani- 
chaos he returns to a consideration of the ages of the world, 
adding a seventh to correspond to the seventh day. * Then 
the Lord will stand forth in clearness; then will those find 
rest with Christ to whom He said, " Be ye therefore perfect, 
as your Father in heaven is perfect." This seventh day 
will not be quite like the other six : there will be no night. 
The perfection then attained in Christ will be eternal. 

St. Augustine formulates a serious contribution to the 
growth of humanity, and the steps he traces there were not 
devoid of stimulus to those who tried to trace evolution 
in the kingdom of animals as well as in the kingdom of men.f 
Like Gregory of Nyssa (332 395), he adopts an explanation 
of the Creation which is in part naturalistic. He docs not 
dream of thinking of the six days of the Creation as in any 
wise equivalent to the solar days. In commenting on the 
passage, " In the beginning God created the heaven and the 
earth/' he writes : " In the beginning God made the heaven 
and the earth, as if this were the seed of the heaven and the 
earth, although as yet all the matter of heaven and of earth 
was in confusion ; but because it was certain that from this 
heaven and the earth would be, therefore the material itself 
is called by that name." $ He thinks of Creation as of things 
in process of coming into due order, " not by intervals of 
time, but by series of causes, so that those things which in 
the mind of God were made simultaneously might be brought 
to their completion by the sixfold representation of that one 
day." In his view of the origin of life he stands midway 
between biogenesis and abiogenesis. It is perhaps too much 

* De Genesi contra Manichaos, I, 24; cf. Tertullian, De Virginibus 
relandes, c. i. 

t Cf. W. Cunningham, S. Austin, p. 114. 
i De Genesi contra Manichaos, bk. I, sect. 2 (vii), 
De Genesi ad Litteram, bk. V, sect. 12 (v), . , 


to say that he put forward a theory of evolution, but he 
plainly rejected the doctrine of special creation. 

In the twelfth century Hugh de St. Victor (1098 1141), 
inspired by St. Augustine, considers evolution, in a loose 
sense, as the universal law of creation; even the angels make 
advances towards perfection. All creatures share in these 
advances till the day of judgment, when all will share the 
immutability and perfection of God Himself. Of course, 
with some thinkers like Gregory of Tours (539 593), Lam- 
bert of Her sf eld (flor. c. beginning of the eleventh century), 
and Otto of Freisingen, the view of a catastrophic end of 
the world prevails. With St. Hugh de St. Victor the painful 
march of the race towards perfection is in no wise a con- 
sequence of the fall. There exists a trace of the golden 
age hypothesis in the notion that all things were perfect 
in the very principle of creation in so far as God directly 
called them into being. Everything else arriving after the 
first process of creation is subject to the law of gradual 
growth, beginning with imperfection and ending with 
perfection. This is clear in the vegetable and animal worlds, 
and is no less clear in the world of the human race.* Hugh 
de St. Victor and St. Thomas Aquinas (1227 1274) insist 
that all truth is one, that there is a progressive revelation of 
it, that as the coming of the Saviour drew near the know- 
ledge of the truth increased.! The sacraments of the law 
of nature shadowed forth the truth; those of the law of 
Moses were its image; and those instituted by Jesus Christ 
are the reality. That is, the early is a preparation for the 
later, but all are fundamentally one.J 

According to St. Thomas Aquinas, " it is natural for 
human reason to arrive by degrees from the imperfect to 
the perfect. Hence the early philosophers taught imperfect 
truth, which afterwards was more clearly discovered by their 
successors." It is exactly the same with the practical sciences ; 
from many standpoints the early inventions were defective, 
later these defects were corrected, with the result that machines 
were improved. He maintains, however, that faith remains 

* Hugo de Sancto Victore, Summa, lib. I, part VI, c. xiv. 
t Hugo de Sancto Victore, De Sacramentis, lib. I, part XI, c. vi; 
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra Gentes, IV, 57; Op., IX, p. 493. 
J Hugo, De Sacramentis, lib. I, part XI, c. vi; lib. I, part XII, c. iii. 
Summa Theologica, prima secundse, quaest. 97, art. I. 


constant as thoroughly as Newton believed in the law of 
change, of development. Dogmas are seemingly increasing 
in number. In reality it is not so, for the germ of them lies 
in the creeds of the primitive Church.* To us dogma 
suggests a superfluous garment which trammels and incom- 
modes the mind. The Stoics and St. Thomas Aquinas 
realised the bitter need of dogma felt by minds which have 
been stripped to the winds of heaven. They were acutely 
aware that an unsolved enigma means intellectual discomfort. 
Therefore St. Thomas bends all his energies to the removal 
of the unsolved. There is another method of overcoming the 
difficulty : truth is unchanged, though its aspects are always 
changing.f The law of Moses was good, argues St. Thomas 
in the spirit of St. Augustine and Prudentius, but it was 
not perfect. Was not, for example, grace lacking ? $ He 
holds the outline of the doctrine of development, but he holds 
it as an ecclesiastic. Take an example. Why, he asks, was 
not the New Law of Christ bestowed upon men from the 
dawn of creation? The answer is St. Augustine's: " The 
Gospel has not been preached to the first men because it 
contains the law of perfection; now perfection cannot exist 
in the very beginning of things." If we compare the law of 
Moses with that of Christ, the former is unquestionably 
imperfect; but if we compare it and it is the only proper 
comparison with the needs of the men for whom it has 
been provided, it was relatively perfect. || The Mosaic law 
is the germ of the law of Christ just as much as the seed 
contains the essence of the tree. If Here the comparative 
standpoint is adopted, and had its consequences been realised 
it would have constituted one of the greatest forward steps 
that man has ever taken. Its consequences, alas! were not 
realised till the days of our own fathers. 

St. Thomas Aquinas possessed the Stoic passion for 
definition. It is possible to meet with passages in the 
Summa Theologica which may be taken to mean that he had 
a vague conception of something that, in the hands of a 

* Summa Theologica, Secundae scunda, quaest. I, art. 7. 
t Ibid., quaest. 16, art. 8. 
j Ibid., prima secundae, quaest. 97, art. I. 
Ibid., quaest. 106, art. 3. 
Ibid., quaest. 98, art. 2. 
f., quaest. 107, art 3. 


dialectician, might be called a theory of evolution, just as in 
his De Regimine Principum he has the idea of a contract 
made between the king and the people. Influenced by the 
teaching of St. Augustine, he lays down : " As to production 
of plants, Augustine holds a different view, ... for some 
say that on the third day plants were actually produced, each 
in his kind a view favoured by the superficial reading of the 
Scripture. But Augustine says that the earth is then said 
to have brought forward grass and trees causaliter; that is, 
it then received power to produce them/' When he dis- 
cusses Genesis ii. 4, he remarks that " in those days . . . God 
made creation primarily or causaliter, and then rested from 
His work." From passages like these it is evident that it 
would be as fair to call St. Thomas an advocate of Whiggism 
or of democracy as an evolutionist. Indeed a candid perusal 
of the Summa Theologica at once reveals the fact that the 
mind of this great thinker was pre-scientifrc. The idea that 
there might be endless knowledge, the view of Seneca, was 
outside his scheme of things. The field of learning was 
strictly bounded, and his mind was quite competent to explore 
every part of it. Dean Colet (1466 1519) protested, not 
against the ignorance of St. Thomas Aquinas for no one 
could accuse the great Italian of lack of information but 
against his confidence in thinking that he could define 

Europe went through and required to go through 
three Renaissances : the first in the eighth century ; the second 
in the twelfth; the third in the fourteenth and fifteenth 
centuries. The first reintroduced something of the old 
Roman education; the second introduced Aristotle and the 
learning of the Arabs ; the third resuscitated the whole culture 
of the classical world. The first prepared the way for the 
second ; the second for the third. The third originated that 
new birth of the human spirit which we emphatically call the 
Renaissance. Admiration for antiquity became its hall-mark. 
Art and Literature threw off the forms of medievalism and 
looked for all their inspiration to the models of the ancient 
world. Platonic societies were formed in Italy, and Plato 
was found to be a theologian, a prophet. The New Learning 
tended in many quarters to place Plato on the pedestal 
formerly occupied by Aristotle. That is, the scholar sub- 


stituted for the works of a thinker with possibilities of 
scientific progress foreshadowed, the works of one whose 
ideal lay in the past. In political circles, as well as in literary 
and scientific, it was not rare to meet with the ancient notion 
of the circular theory of the movement of peoples and civilisa- 
tions. If on the one hand there are the names of Rabelais 
(c.i495 1553), Campanella (1568 1639), and Francis 
Bacon (1561 1626), on the other there are the no less 
renowned names of Machiavelli (14691527), Bodin 
(15301596), and Montaigne (15331592). 

The geographical discoveries of the age brought into 
prominence cycles of another kind, the cycle of incessant 
movement growth, expansion, short-lived conquest, followed 
by shrinkage, defeat, expulsion, or absorption by another set 
of migrants. The written history of mankind is to be read 
largely in the shift ings of peoples, now going forward, then 
thrusting back. Society was approaching a dynamic stage, 
though of course it never is static. The great service 
Copernicus (1473 *543) rendered to mankind was the con- 
ception of perpetual motion of this world. Motion there is 
in the worlds above, and incessant motion there is in the 
worlds beneath. Petrarch (1304 1374) is sometimes called 
the first modern man, and on the literary side a case may 
be made out for this designation. He was, however, as 
blind as Dante (1265 1321) to the forces about him which 
made for political and scientific progress. What was fatal 
to the work of Dante was the work of Copernicus. There 
was no longer any distinction between the heavens and the 
earth. True, the earth became a heavenly body, but for 
all time to come the substance of the heavenly was precisely 
the same as that of the earthly. It was no longer possible 
to credit the belief that the stars influenced the destiny of 
man, for their motions were governed by the same laws as 
that of the globe we inhabit. Man was once more a mote 
in the unfathomable universe. Four generations after 
Copernicus, Blaise Pascal (1623 1662) could say, "Le 
silence eternel de ces espaces m'effraie." The first modern 
man was the astronomer, the first to cherish a scientific con- 
ception of evolution in the heavens. 

Naturalists like Leeuwenhoek, Malpighi, and Swammer- 
dam contributed during the second half of the seventeenth 


and the beginning of the eighteenth century to the study of 
the smaller organisms. They provided facts, but they did not 
provide principles. These were set going from the days 
of St. Augustine, who suggested that there were stages in 
the history of the world just as there were stages in the 
history of the animals, the relations of man. Seneca was 
every whit as much a Stoic as he was a scientist, and it is 
out of our power to separate the thought of evolution in 
theology from the thought of evolution in science. The 
remarkable fact in modern times is that the stimulus given 
to evolutionary studies came much more from the moral 
philosophers than from the scientists proper. As Mr. 
Osborn takes care to show : " It is a very striking fact, 
that the basis of our modern methods of studying the 
Evolution problem was established not by the early 
naturalists nor by the speculative writers, but by the 
Philosophers. They alone were upon the main track of 
modern thought. It is evident that they were groping in 
the dark for a working theory of the Evolution of life, and 
it is remarkable that they clearly perceived from the outset 
that the point to which observation should be directed was 
not the past but the present mutability of species, and further, 
that this mutability was simply the variation of individuals 
on an extended scale. Thus Variation was brought into 
prominence as the point to which observation should be 
directed."* Bacon pointed out the evidence for variation in 
plants and animals and the bearing of this upon the pro- 
duction of new species. Leibniz advanced beyond Bacon's 
position in indicating that the evolution of life was a necessary 
part of a system of cosmic philosophy. Kant's conception 
of evolution is one of the most comprehensive, embodying 
in it the views of philosophers from Aristotle onwards. 

Francis Bacon grasped the idea of the renewal of the 
modern world by the aid of the intellectual labours of 
successive generations.! He is often reproached with making 
no real contribution to science. The criticism Ls just, but it is 
not well founded. His role was that of a herald. " I am but 

* H. F. Osborn, From the Greeks to Darwin, p. 87. 

t De Dign. et Augm. Scientiarum, I, 20; II, 23; IV, in ; V, 114; VIII, 
287-8 (1638 ed.). Cf. Novum Organum, I, aphor. 56, 78, 84, 92; DC 
Sapientia Vetcrum, 315-6 (1638 ed.) ; Nova Atlantis, 367 ff. (1638 ed.). 


a trumpeter," he proclaimed, " not a combatant." Scientific 
investigators work, as a rule, on facts and observations they 
collect. Bacon urged them to amass facts and evolve cosmos 
out of chaos. His method is wrong; still there is no 
mistaking the enthusiasm of the man who writes that " with- 
out such a natural and experimental history ... no progress 
worthy of the human race in Philosophy and the Sciences 
could possibly be made; whereas if such a history were once 
provided, and well ordered, with the addition of such 
auxiliary and light-giving experiments as the course of 
Interpretation would itself suggest, the investigation of 
Nature and of all the Sciences would be the work of only a 
few years." * In this fashion he hopes to get rid of the 
ancient hypothesis that men are condemned to return always 
in a circle. 

Did not the schoolmen employ experience? Truly they 
did, but it was not to consult her as an adviser, but to drag 
her at their chariot-wheels as a captive. In his Historia 
Vitcz et Mortis, Bacon is well aware of the utility of pro- 
visional hypotheses. In the preface to his magnum opus 
Copernicus had announced, " Neither let any one, so far as 
hypotheses are concerned, expect anything certain from 
Astronomy; since science can afford nothing of the kind." 
Bacon attacked the Copernican discovery, and no doubt 
some of his hostility was prompted by the circumstance that 
the astronomer was pragmatic in his outlook. To Bacon 
science was making such progress that he could not bear this 
pessimistic philosopher. In his Advancement of Learning, 
which he published in 1605, he insists on the wisdom of 
providing readers in science and of providing the expenses 
of the experiments these men undertake. The foundation 
of the Royal Society was one day to be the outcome of his 
ideas. It is scarcely three centuries since the idea of the 
possibility of indefinite progress through man's own conscious 
efforts first emerged in the minds of a few thoughtful 
persons. It is to Bacon the glory is due of first popularising 
this seminal idea, one of the greatest single ideas in the 
whole history of mankind in the vista of possibilities it 
opens before us. 

Bacon's Novum Organum is filled with hope. He raised 
* Preface to Parasceue ad Historian Naturalem et Experimentalem. 


the problem of the mutability of species as a possible result 
of the accumulation of variations. " In the eighth rank of 
prerogative instances/' he remarks, " we will place deviating 
instances, such as the errors of Nature or strange and mon- 
strous objects, in which Nature deviates and turns from her 
ordinary course. For the errors of Nature differ from 
singular instances, inasmuch as the latter are the miracles 
of species, the former of the individuals. Their use is much 
the same, for they rectify the understanding in opposition 
to habit, and reveal common forms. For with regard to 
these, also, we must not desist from inquiry till we discern 
the cause of the deviation; the cause does not, however, 
in such cases rise to a regular form, but only in the latent 
process towards such a form, for he who is acquainted with 
the path of Nature will more readily observe their deviations, 
and vice versa, he who has learnt her deviations will be able 
more accurately to describe her paths." * There is no 
reason to believe that the investigator is speaking here : it 
is the prophet with which we are concerned, the man who 
could divine that " plants sometimes degenerate to the point 
of changing into other plants." 

In his Novum Organum he proceeds to hint that man can 
produce variations experimentally, and that living objects 
are well adapted to experimental work : " They differ again 
from singular instances, by being much more apt for 
practice. For it would be very difficult to generate new 
species, but less to vary known species, and thus produce many 
rare and unusual results. The passage from the miracles of 
Nature to those of Art is easy; for if Nature be once seized 
in her variations and the cause be manifest, it will be easy 
to lead her by Art to such variation as she was first led to by 
chance; and not only to that, but others, since deviations 
on the one side lead and open the way in every direction." 

In the following passage his acumen enables him to per- 
ceive the presence of transitional forms in Nature : " In the 
ninth rank of prerogative instances we will place bordering 
instances, which we are also wont to term participants. They 
are such as exhibit those species of bodies which appear to 
be composed of two species, or to be the rudiments between 
one and the other. They may well be classed with the 
* Novum Organum, bk. II, sect. 29. 


singular or heteroclite instances; for in the whole system of 
things, they are rare and extraordinary. Yet from their 
dignity they must be treated of and classed separately, for they 
point out admirably the order and constitution of things, and 
suggest the causes of the number and quality of the more 
common species in the Universe, leading the understanding 
from that which is, to that which is possible. We have 
examples of them in Moss, which is something between 
putrescence and a plant ; in some Comets, which hold a place 
between stars and ignited meteors; in Flying Fishes, 
between fishes and birds; and in Bats, between birds and 

What an Englishman suggested a German proceeded to 
develop. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (16461716) was 
familiar with the writings of Bacon, who enforced on him 
his views on variation. Influenced by Aristotle, Leibniz 
expressed the law of continuity as applied to life: " All 
natural orders of beings present but a single chain, in which 
the different classes of animals, like so many rings, are so 
closely united that it is not possible either by observation or 
imagination to determine where one ends or begins." His 
conception of continuity is clear in the following : " All 
advances by degrees in Nature, and nothing by leaps, and this 
law as applied to each, is part of my doctrine of Continuity. 
Although there may exist in some other world species inter- 
mediate between Man and the Apes, Nature has thought it 
best to remove them from us, in order to establish our 
superiority beyond question. I speak of the intermediate 
species, and by no means limit myself to those leading to 
Man. I strongly approve of the research for analogies; 
plants, insects, and Comparative Anatomy will increase these 
analogies, especially when we are able to take advantage of 
the microscope more than at present/' Huxley quotes a 
passage from the Protogcza * which proves that Leibniz 
had not merely a law of continuity, a law of perfecti- 
bility, but also thought on the mutability of species. In 
discussing the fossil Ammonites related to the living Nautilus 
he notes : " Some are surprised that there are to be seen 
everywhere in rocks such objects as one might seek for in 
vain elsewhere in the known world, or certainly, at least, in 
* Prolog^ XXVI; cf. T. H. Huxley, Darwiniana, p. 208. 


his own neighbourhood. Such are the horns of Ammon 
(Ammonites), which are reckoned a kind of Nautilus, 
although they are said to differ always both in form and 
size, sometimes indeed being found a foot in diameter, from 
all those animal natures which the sea exhibits. Yet who has 
thoroughly searched those hidden recesses or subterranean 
depth ? And how many animals hitherto unknown to us has 
a new world to offer? Indeed it is credible that by means 
of such great changes (of habitat) even the species of animals 
are often changed/' In his world there are endless monads 
and each of them is the centre of an endless evolution. 

Most questions in moral philosophy have been so altered 
by the thought of Immanuel Kant (1724 1804) that one is 
not altogether unprepared to discern his potency in the world 
of evolution. By his grand nebular hypothesis he suggested 
the possible development of stars, suns, planets, and satellites 
by the slow contraction of diffuse and incandescent haze- 
clouds. If it be true that great minds think alike, we can 
grasp the fact that about the same time there occurred 
to Buffon and him ideas of selection and adaptation, of 
environment and inheritance. Following in the steps of 
Newton, who noted the uniformity of structure which 
pervades animal types, and Leibniz, who noted the possible 
perfectibility of monads, Kant in 1755 published his The 
General History of Nature and Theory of the Heavens, 
which endeavoured to reconcile Newton and Leibniz from 
the mechanical and teleological standpoints. Influenced also 
by Lucretius, Kant adopted an attitude unlike that of his 
former book when he published in 1780 his The Teleological 
Facility of Judgment. In the former he considers the world 
to be under the domain of natural causes. In the latter he 
divides the world into the inorganic in which natural causes 
prevail, and the organic in which the teleological principle 
prevails. His awe of the starry heavens predisposed him 
to think that it was next to impossible for the mind of man 
to discover all the laws of the universe. 

In 1763 he traced back all the higher forms of life to 
simpler elementary forms. He notes the changes produced in 
man by migration, differences of climate, and deduces the 
law of degeneration from the originally created types of 
species. What is true of the world of animals is just as 


true of the world of man. Is there not stage after stage in 
both ? Is not man in fact an animal ? In 1790 Kant wrote a 
pregnant passage: "It is desirable to examine the great 
domain of organised beings by means of a methodical com- 
parative anatomy, in order to discover whether we may not 
find in them something resembling a system, and that too in 
connection with their mode of generation, so that we may 
not be compelled to stop short with a mere consideration of 
forms as they are which gives us no insight into their 
generation and need not despair of gaining a full insight 
into this department of Nature. The agreement of so many 
kinds of animals in a certain common plan of structure, 
which seems to be visible not only in their skeletons so 
that a wonderfully simple typical form, by the shortening 
and lengthening of some parts, and by the suppression and 
development of others, might be able to produce an immense 
variety of species gives us a ray of hope, though feeble, 
that here perhaps some results may be obtained, by the 
application of the principle of the mechanism of Nature, 
without which, in fact, no science ran exist. This analogy 
of forms (in so far as they seem to have been produced in 
accordance with a common prototype, notwithstanding their 
great variety) strengthens the supposition that they have an 
actual blood relationship, due to derivation from a common 
parent; a supposition which is arrived at by observation of 
the graduated approximation of one class of animals to 
another, beginning with the one in which the principle of 
purposiveness seems to be most conspicuous, namely man, 
and extending down to the polyps, and from these even 
down to mosses and lichens, and arriving finally at raw 
matter, the lowest stage of Nature observable by us. From 
this raw matter and its forces, the whole apparatus of Nature 
seems to have been derived according to mechanical laws 
(such as those which resulted in the production of crystals) ; 
yet this apparatus, as seen in inorganic beings, is so incompre- 
hensible to us, that we feel ourselves compelled to conceive 
for it a different principle. But it would seem that the 
archaeologist of Nature is at liberty to regard the great 
Family of creatures (for as a Family we must conceive it, 
if the above-mentioned continuous and connected relationship 
has a real foundation) as having sprung from the immediate 


results of her earliest revolution, judging from all the laws 
of their mechanisms known to us or conjectured by 
him." * 

The classical and the mediaeval conception of evolution had 
been preserved by Bacon, Leibniz, and Kant. Bacon was a 
philosopher and nothing else. Leibniz and Kant were 
philosophers and mathematicians. During the eighteenth 
century we meet men who are partly philosophers, partly 
naturalists. Huxley has drawn attention f to Benoit de 
Maillet (1656 1738), whose Telliamed was written before 
the time of Haller and Bonnet, of Linnaeus and Hutton. 
Influenced by Empedocles, de Maillet traces a theory of 
transmission of acquired characters. Habit and trans- 
formation are his leading explanations of all metamorphoses. 
All terrestrial animals have their origin in marine forms. 
Birds come from flying-fishes. Lions came from sea-lions, 
and man from rhomme marin, the husband of the mermaid ! 
Huxley points out that de Maillet entertains a definite con- 
ception of the plasticity of living things, but he omits to 
mention that de Maillet is capable of thinking that this 
plasticity can take place in a single life and he also omits 
de Maillet's pedigree of man. Like St. Augustine, de 
Maillet interprets the days of Genesis as so many gradual 
periods or epochs. 

Pierre 'Louis Moreau de Maupertuis (1698 1759) bore 
traces of Greek thought in his speculations, for Democritus 
and Anaxagoras left their mark upon him. There are to 
Maupertuis psychical properties of the higher organisms in all 
material particles, and these constitute the link between the 
organic and the inorganic worlds. As he assumes that 
non-living matter holds properties of living matter, he can 
easily derive the latter from the former. He finds an 
origin of new species in supposing that the elementary 
particles may not always retain the same order : there may be 
chance combinations producing differences which result 
in the infinite variety of species. 

Denis Diderot (1713 1784) continued the teaching of 
Empedocles in his anticipation of the doctrine of natural 

* Schultze drew Mr. Osborn's attention to this notable passage, and 
Mr. Osborn drew mine, 
j Darwiniana, p. 208, 


selection. His reasoning he puts into the month of one 
Saunderson. As to anterior states, Saunderson tells us * : 
" You have no witnesses to confront with me, and your eyes 
give you no help. Imagine, if you choose, that the order 
which strikes you so profoundly has subsisted from the 
beginning. But you leave me free to think that it has done 
no such thing, and that if we went back to the birth of things 
and scenes, and perceived matter in motion and chaos slowly 
disentangling itself, we should come across a whole multitude 
of shapeless creatures, instead of a very few creatures highly 
organised. If I have no objection to make to what you say 
about the present condition of things, I may at least question 
you as to their past condition. I may at least ask of you, for 
example, who told you you and Leibniz and Clarke and 
Newton that in the first instances of the formation of 
animals, some were without heads and others without 
feet? I may maintain that these had no stomachs, and 
those no intestines; that some to whom a stomach, a palate, 
and teeth seemed to promise permanence, came to an end 
through some fault of heart and lungs; that the monsters 
annihilated one another in succession, that all the faulty 
(vicieuses) combinations of matter disappeared, and that 
these only survived whose mechanism implied no important 
misadaptation (contradiction-), and who had the power of 
supporting and perpetuating themselves. 

" On this hypothesis, if the first man had happened to have 
his larynx closed, or had not found suitable food, or had been 
defective in the parts of generation, or had failed to find a 
mate, then what would have become of the human race? It 
would have been still enfolded in the general depuration of 
the universe; and that arrogant being who calls himself Man, 
dissolved and scattered among the molecules of matter, would 
perhaps have remained for all time hidden in the number 
of mere possibilities. 

"If shapeless creatures had never existed, you would not 
fail to insist that none will ever appear, and that I am 
throwing myself headlong into chimerical hypotheses. But 
the order is not even now so perfect, but that monstrous 
products appear from time to time." 

Saunderson continues to enlarge his views. " I con- 
* I use Lord Morley's translation on p. 94 ff. of his Diderot, I. 


jecture then/' he proceeds, " that in the beginning when 
matter in fermentation gradually brought our universe 
bursting into being, blind creatures like myself were very 
common. But why should I not believe of worlds what I 
believe of animals? How many worlds, mutilated and im- 
perfect, were peradventure dispersed, then re-formed, and are 
again dispersing at each moment of time in those far-off 
spaces which I cannot touch and you cannot behold, but where 
motion combines and will continue to combine masses of mat- 
ter, until they have chanced on some arrangement in which 
they may finally persevere! O philosophers, transport 
yourselves with me on to the confines of the universe, beyond 
the point where I feel, and you see, organised beings; gaze 
over that new ocean, and seek across its lawless, aimless 
heavings some vestiges of that intelligent Being whose 
wisdom strikes you with such wonder here ! 

" What is this world? A complex whole, subject to endless 
revolutions. All these revolutions show a continual tendency 
to destruction; a swift succession of beings who follow one 
another, press forward, and vanish; a fleeting symmetry; the 
order of a moment. I reproached you just now with estimat- 
ing the perfection of things by your own capacity; and I 
might accuse you here of measuring its duration by the 
length of your own days. You judge of the continuous 
existence of the world, as an ephemeral insect might judge 
of yours. The world is eternal for you, as you are eternal 
to the being that lives but for one instant. Yet the insect 
is the more reasonable of the two. For what a 
prodigious succession of ephemeral generations attests 
your eternity! What an immeasurable tradition! Yet 
shall we all pass away, without the possibility of assign- 
ing either the real extension that we filled in space, or the 
precise time that we shall have endured. Time, space, 
matter all, it may be, are no more than a point/' 

Diderot sent a copy of his work to Voltaire. The poet 
replied with courtesy, but declared his dissent from the con- 
clusions of Saunderson, " who denied God, because he hap- 
pened to have been born blind." And indeed there is colour- 
blindness on the part of not a few scientists. Huxley him- 
self asked Professor Haughton of Trinity College, Dublin, 
could he account for the circumstance that he was an agnostic 


and Haughton was a Christian scientist. Haughton reflected 
for a moment, and then replied, " Perhaps, in this matter, 
you are colour-blind." "Of course,'' answered Huxley, 
" if I were colour-blind I should not know it." We might 
contend that Diderot, one of the heroic sceptics of the 
eighteenth century, would very likely disown many of 
those who profess his scepticism now. For scepticism, when 
a virtue, is always an opportunist virtue, and it may become 
a vice when the circumstances that have justified it have 
passed away. The man who, like Diderot, is an heroic 
sceptic when the world is cumbered with a mass of false 
doctrine, might in another age affirm instead of denying and 
might oppose the sceptic of that age every whit as eagerly as 
he opposed the dogmatists of his own time. For scepticism 
itself may be a false doctrine instead of the enemy of false 
doctrines. It may become an end instead of a means, and a 
drug to the intellect rather than a spur. In fact there are 
two kinds of sceptics ; and it is very easy for the baser kind 
to flatter themselves that they are followers of the nobler. 
Diderot was a sceptic, but he was made one by his passion for 
truth ; and that passion was not the least sceptical. For years 
he toiled at the Encyclopedia at a salary of about 120 a 
year, and mere disbelief would never have impelled a man of 
such gifts to make so great a sacrifice for it. He disbelieved 
many things because his faith in truth and in the value of 
knowledge was so strong ; he was content to destroy because he 
believed that truth would prevail when error was swept away. 
There are sceptics who do not believe in truth or that 
it can ever prevail, and, unlike Diderot, they find it easy to 
accept beliefs readily enough just because they do not believe 
in them. In an age of dogmatism they are comfortable 
dogmatists; in an age of scepticism they are equally com- 
fortable sceptics. But in any case their dogmatism is 
sceptical and their scepticism dogmatic. When they seem to 
affirm anything they are only denying that the effort after 
truth is worth making; when they seem to deny anything 
they are only affirming that truth cannot be discovered. To 
them scepticism it not a means to an end, but an end in itself. 
It is an animal lethargy of the mind which they flatter with 
a philosophic name. Low forms of life seem to have adapted 
themselves more perfectly to circumstance than the higher 


forms; and there is the same perfection of adaptation in this 
low kind of scepticism. Whether it wears the guise of 
belief or disbelief, its aim is always mere comfort; and it 
can only be stirred to anger by anything which threatens its 
comfort. The Sadducees, the comfortable sceptics of their 
time, joined with the Pharisees against Christ; and they did 
so, no doubt, not because He destroyed, but because He 
affirmed. The baser sceptic tolerates an old affirmation 
because he knows by experience that it will not interfere 
with his comfort; but he hates a new one because he does 
not know how uncomfortable it may make him. He is as 
hostile to the passion for truth as to the passion for righteous- 
ness ; for both of these try to answer questions, and he likes to 
ask them only because he is sure that they cannot be answered. 
A passionate sceptic like Diderot falls into the habit of 
destruction, because in his time there is so much that needs 
to be destroyed. Like every man who would do great things, 
he becomes a specialist and sacrifices some of his own virtue 
to his specialism. He knows well enough that there must be 
reconstruction, but he leaves that to the future when the 
destruction is accomplished. Unfortunately his habit of 
destruction is often mistaken by his followers for his peculiar 
virtue, and they persist in it out of mere imitation. They 
think that they are heroic revolutionaries like him when they 
continue to deny from mere conservatism. Revolutions, in 
thought as in politics, cannot continue for ever; and the 
effort to continue them is merely an effort to maintain 
anarchy. A sceptic like Diderot is a soldier who practises 
the arts of war in thought; but when he has won his victories 
it becomes necessary to practise the arts of peace. He, 
because he was a great soldier of thought, would have known 
this, but the mechanical sceptic who persists in fighting the 
errors of the past does not know it. He still enjoys slaying 
the slain and winning easily victories that once were hard and 
glorious. He is brave against superstitions that no one now 
believes in and against old evils which he does not recognise 
in a new form. He is, in fact, obsolete himself, and not the 
less so because he is the attacker, not the defender, of lost 
causes. There are White Rose leagues of scepticism as 
well as of loyalty; and they do not even possess the advantage 
of being romantic, They deny safely what no one affirms; 


but Diderot denied at his peril what the whole world affirmed, 
and by the peril of his denial proved that there was affirma- 
tion behind it. For men are generally right in what they 
affirm and wrong in what they deny at least after the 
Diderot stage has been negotiated. 

Charles Bonnet (1720 1793) champions the Greek 
doctrine of pre-existing germs, holding that all living things 
proceed from them. It is only in a loose sense that he can be 
called an evolutionist, though he was the author of this term, 
deriving it from e-volvo. Following the law of continuity 
of Leibniz, he came to the conclusion that no such thing as 
generation, in the strict sense of the term, occurs in nature.* 

J. B. Rene Robinet (1735 1820) followed in the steps 
of Leibniz in holding the law of continuity and of de Maillet, 
pursuing his line of thought, though more soberly. Borrow- 
ing a mistaken interpretation of Aristotle, he conceived 
evolution in the Master's large-minded fashion. Like 
Maupertuis, he minimises the differences between organic 
and inorganic, reaching an " echelle des etres " which em- 
braces all matter. Unlike Bonnet and de Maillet and like 
Leibniz, he was a uniformitarian long before the days of 
LyelL Holding Leibniz's law of continuity, he imagines that 
Nature has for her aim a movement towards the perfection 
of each type. From the very beginning she meant to produce 
man, her chef-d'cciivre, and the higher apes appear as her 
last efforts before she triumphed in making man. Fossils, 
minerals, dogs, horses, orang-outangs are not these the 
experiments of nature? Man is simply the last of the series, 
and even he may be replaced. Curiously enough, like 
Lucretius, Robinet has no true idea of the gradual change 
of the lower form into a higher. 

Lorenzo Oken (1776 1851) held a fixed scientific creed, 
and its articles determined his attitude to all the conceptions 
of his day. In his sea-slime theory and spontaneous genera- 
tion views he harks back to the ideas of Anaximander. He 
bases his whole philosophy upon the spherical form of his 
metaphysical " All." The skull, for example, he held to be 
one of these manifestations of the archetypal sphere. The 

* C O. Whitman, Bonnet's Theory of Evolution (Woods Hall Bio- 
logical Lectures, 1894), pp. 225-40; cf. also pp. 205-24 on evolution and 


cell of course is also a sphere. His Philosophy of Nature 
appeared in 1802, the very year in which Lamarck and 
Treviranus independently outlined their theories of biology 
and evolution. In spite of the praises lavished by Haeckel on 
him, there is no comparison between their methods and their 
results with his methods and his results. In 1805 appeared 
his work upon Generation Die Zeugung containing his 
Ur-Schleim doctrine. " Every organic thing," we learn, 
" has arisen out of slime, and is nothing but slime in different 
forms. This primitive slime originated in the sea, from 
inorganic matter, in the course of planetary evolution. The 
origin of life occurred upon the shores, where water, air, 
and earth were joined." The Ur-Schleim took the form of 
minute bladders containing fluid. This infusorium, as he 
calls it, develops. The whole organic world, in fact, consists 
of infusoria, and both plants and animals are merely modified 
infusoria. Generation, in his view, is the synthesis of organic 
spheres. With Robinet, he holds that it is the synthesis of 
germs. With Maupertuis and Diderot, he holds that it is 
the synthesis of particles. His conceptions of the beginnings 
of life vary, nor is he afraid to be inconsistent. " All life,' 1 
he declares, " is from the sea; the whole sea is alive. Love 
arose out of sea-foam." Such a conclusion might have stood 
in the days of Anaximander, but it could not stand at the 
beginning of the nineteenth century. He is even able to 
throw over his celebrated Ur-Schleim hypothesis when he lays 
down that " man has not been created, but developed, so the 
Bible itself teaches us. God did not make man out of 
nothing, but took an elemental body then existing an earth- 
clod or carbon; moulded it into form, thus making use of 
water; and breathed into it life namely, air whereby gal- 
vanism or the vital process arose." This, by the way, will 
indicate the sort of teaching in which Helmholtz grew up. 

The philosophers like Bacon, Leibniz, and Kant step off the 
scene, and so too do the quasi-philosophers like de Maillet, 
Maupertuis, Diderot, Bonnet, Robinet, and Oken. The 
philosophers from Bacon to Kant had been the forerunners 
of the naturalists of the rank of Linnaeus and Buffon. 

The change in attitude effected by the naturalists is appar- 
ent in the opening words of Charles Dickens's novel Hard 
Times. " Now, what I want," says Mr. Gradgrind, " is Facts. 


Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone 
are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out every- 
thing else. You can only form the minds of reasoning 
animals upon Facts; nothing else will ever be of any service 
to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my 
own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up 
these children. Stick to Facts, sir ! " The wish of Mr. 
Gradgrind was anticipated during the eighteenth century by 
some naturalists. Views there had been in abundance, but 
had not the time come to put facts before investigators? 

Linnaeus (1707 1778), it is not unfair to say, founded 
the school of facts, and Buff on and Cuvier adopted his 
attitude. His magnum opus on the Systema Nature? 
contained masses of facts. He saw behind the facts he 
diligently collected the world of organic life as composed 
of so many well-demarcated types, each separate, distinct, and 
immutable, each capable of producing its life ad infinitum, 
and each unable to vary from its central standard in any 
of its individuals, except perhaps within very narrow and 
unimportant limits. To him every species was exactly 
intermediate between two others : " We reckon as many 
species as issued in pairs from the hands of the Creator." 
By defining a kind as a group of plants or animals so closely 
resembling one another as to give rise to the belief that they 
might all be descended from a single ancestor or pair of 
ancestors, he implicitly gave the sanction of his weighty 
authority to the Creation hypothesis, and to the doctrine 
of the unchangeability of organic forms. Such were his 
views before 1751. Observance of facts proved too much 
for this attitude. He dropped the idea of the absolute 
fixity of species, allowing for an increase of species when he 
remarked that " all the species of one genus constituted at 
first (that is, at the Creation) one species, ab initio unam 
constituerint speciem; they were subsequently multiplied 
by hybrid generation, that is, by intercrossing with other 
species/' In the last edition of his Systema Nature?, which 
appeared in 1766, the fundamental proposition of his early 
years, nulla specie? nova, quietly disappears. He also 
suggests that degeneration was the result of the influence of 
climate or environment. 
Like Linnaeus, Georges Louis Leclerc Buffon (1707 


1788) collected facts with the utmost care, and, like Linnaeus, 
believed at first in the absolute immutability of species, and, 
also like him, came to disbelieve in this immutability. The 
early edition of Buffon's magnum opus, L'PIistoire Naturelle, 
contains words that might be a quotation from the early 
edition of Linnseus's Systcma Natures : " In animals, species 
are separated by a gap which Nature cannot bridge. . . . 
We see him, the Creator, dictating his simple but beautiful 
laws and impressing upon each species its immutable char- 
acters." The nasty, inconvenient fact of the pig stood so 
early as 1755 * n the way of the acceptance of the Special 
Creation theory. How could the pig have been formed 
upon an original, special, and perfect plan? Was it not a 
compound of other animals? Had it not parts like the toes 
which are of no service to it? 

Anticipating Goethe, Buffon refused to perceive a purpose 
in every part. Six years later he came to hold a belief in the 
frequent mutability of species. Plants and animals may 
freely vary in every direction from a common centre, so that 
one kind may gradually and slowly be evolved by natural 
causes from the type of another. He points out that, under- 
lying all external diversities of character and shape, funda- 
mental likenesses of type occur in many animals, which 
irresistibly suggest the notion of common descent from a 
single ancestor. Thus regarded, he maintains, not only the 
ass and the horse but even man himself, the monkeys, the 
quadrupeds, and all vertebrate animals, might be viewed as 
merely forming divergent branches of one and the same 
great family tree. Every such family, he believed, whether 
animal or vegetable, might have sprung originally from a 
single stock, which after many generations had here developed 
into a higher form, and there degenerated into a lower and 
less perfect type of organisation. Granting this granting 
that nature could by slow variation produce one species in the 
course of direct descent from another unlike it (for example, 
the ass from the horse) then, Buffon observed, there was 
no further limit to be set to her powers in this respect. We 
might reasonably conclude that from a single primordial 
being she has gradually been able in the course of time to 
develop the whole continuous gamut of existing animal and 
vegetable life. It is the old Aristotelian notion worked out 


upon a wide basis of facts. The relations of species he leaves 
to the one side as a problem beyond our reach : " Nous ne 
pourrions nous prononcer plus affirmativement si les limites 
qui separent les especes, ou la chaine qui les unit, nous 
etaient micux connus; .mais qui peut avoir suivi la grande 
filiation de toutes les genealogies dans la nature? II faut 
etre ne avec elle et avoir, pour ainsi dire, des observations 
contemporaines. ' ' 

To students of heredity it is a fact of surpassing fascina- 
tion to find that Dr. Erasmus Darwin* (1731 1802), 
grandfather of the great naturalist, proves to be a poet of 
evolution, following Empedocles and Lucretius, and followed 
by Goethe. He wrote the Botanic Garden and Loves of the 
Plants, two volumes of verse published about 1788, his 
Zoonomia, published in 1794, and his Temple of Nature, 
published after his death in 1802, a memorable year in the 
annals of works published on evolution. Poor as his poetry 
is, it everywhere evinces the working of an original mind. 
Where Charles Darwin was to catch views, Erasmus Darwin 
only caught glimpses. These glimpses leant towards the 
ideas afterwards put forth by that outstanding scientist 
Lamarck. Darwin held that modifications spring from 
within by the reactions of the organism, and he also endowed 
plants with sensibility and, going further than Lamarck, 
attributed their evolution to their own efforts towards the 
attainment of certain structures. 

In the opening verses of the Temple of Nature Erasmus 
Darwin revives the Greek doctrine of the spontaneous origin 

of life: 

Hence without parents, by spontaneous birth, 
Rise the first specks of animated earth. 

Organic life beneath the shoreless waves 
Was born and nurs'd in ocean's pearly caves; 
First, forms minute, unseen by spheric glass, 
Move on the mud, or pierce the watery mass; 
These, as successive generations bloom, 
New powers acquire and larger limbs assume; 
Whence countless groups of vegetation spring, 
And breathing realms of fin and feet and wing. 

In the transition from sea to dry land came the amphibious, 

* Throughout this section I make much use of E. Krause's Erasmus 
Darwin, and Mr. H. F. Osborn's From the Greeks to Darwin. 


and then the terrestrial forms of life. He notes the develop- 
ment of the tadpole into the frog that surprised Canning so 
much. He quotes Buffon to the effect that many features 
in the anatomy of man point to a former quadrupedal position. 
Man may have arisen from a single family of monkeys in 
which, accidentally, the opposing muscle brought the thumb 
against the tips of the fingers, and this muscle gradually 
increased in size by use in successive generations. That is, 
he discerns the part taken by the survival of an accidental 
variation. The hand of man indeed stirs him: 

The hand, first gift of Heaven! to man belongs; 
Untipt with claws, the circling fingers close, 
With rival points the bending thumbs oppose, 
Trace the nice lines of Form with sense refined, 
And clear ideas charm the thinking mind. 

The development of the human faculties next receives atten- 
tion. He describes the fierce struggle for existence in verses 
that remind us of Tennyson's lines upon nature red in tooth 
and claw. Animal destroys animal, and plant destroys plant. 
Plants engage in an endless contest among themselves for 
soil and air, for light and moisture. This bitter contest 
results in the checks administered to the naturally rapid 
increase of life. What Darwin put poetically, we may put by 
means of the more prosaic medium of figures. If we assume 
each plant to occupy a foot and if we assume the dry surface 
of the earth to be 51,000,000 square miles, this provides us 
with 1,421,798,400,000,000 square feet, room enough, we 
should think, for reasonable expansion on the part of plants. 
Take the process for nine years, and we find: 

Plants Plants 

i x 50 in ist year= 50 

50 X 50 2nd - ; 2,500 

2,500 x 50 3rd 

125,000 X 50 4th 

6,250,000 X 50 5th 

312,500,000 X 50 6th 

15,625,000,000 X 50 7th 

781,250,000,000 X 50 8th 

39,062,500,000,000 x 50 (jth 








That is to say, at the end of the ninth year there are 
531,326,600,000,000 square feet less than the descendants 
of a single plant, unchecked, require. As Dr. Krause re- 
marks, Darwin just misses the connection between this fierce 
struggle and the survival of the fittest. 


From such predecessors as Aristotle and Leibniz, Buffon 
and Helvetius, Linnaeus and Blumenthal, Erasmus Darwin 
draws, and draws heavily. Darwin confesses that " this idea 
of the gradual formation and improvement of the Animal 
world seems not to have been unknown to the ancient 
philosophers. " 

In his Zoonomia Darwin defends the idea of individual 
development by successive additions of parts to the embryo. 
Individual life begins from a single filament. " Shall we 
conjecture," he asks, " that one and the same kind of living 
filament is and has been the cause of all organic life? . . . 
I suppose this living filament, of whatever form it may be, 
whether sphere, cube, or cylinder, to be endowed with the 
capability of being excited into action by certain kinds of 
stimulus. " This excitability gives rise to the changes in the 
structure of plants and animals, and these changes are trans- 
mitted to their descendants. Coming to the largest problem, 
he believes that " when we revolve in our minds the meta- 
morphoses of animals, as from the tadpole to the frog; 
secondly, the changes produced by artificial cultivation, as in 
the breeds of horses, dogs, and sheep; thirdly, the changes 
produced by conditions of climate and of season, as in the 
sheep of warm climates being covered with hair instead of 
with wool, and the hares and partridges of northern climates 
becoming white in winter: when, further, we observe the 
changes in structure produced by habit, as seen especially in 
men of different occupations; or the changes produced by 
artificial mutilation and prenatal influences, as in the crossing 
of species and production of monsters ; fourthly, when we ob- 
serve the essential unity of plan in all warm-blooded animals, 
we are led to conclude that they have been alike produced 
from a similar living filament." 

As he reviews some of the arguments for mutability, he 
speculates upon the causes of these changes. " From their 
first rudiments/' he thinks, " or primordium, to the termina- 
tion of their lives, all animals undergo perpetual transforma- 
tions; which are in part produced by their own exertions in 
consequence of their desires and aversions, of their pleasures 
and their pains, or of irritation, or of associations ; and many 
of these acquired forms or propensities are transmitted to 
their posterity." * Here is the theory of the inheritance 

* Zoonomia, I, p. 506. 


of acquired modifications enunciated, and enunciated for the 
first time. Nor is it a stray remark of Darwin's, for he 
repeatedly recurs to it. 

Acquired characters are transmitted by animals. Discuss- 
ing their wants, he arranges them from the point of view of 
sexual characters. Horns and spurs, he thinks, are developed 
for purposes of combat and for the procuring of females. 
Though he misses the idea of the sexual selection of the 
horns developed as ornaments to the male, he hits upon the 
idea of protective colouring. For we learn that " there are 
organs developed for protective purposes, diversifying both 
the form and colour of the body for concealment and for 
combat." He admits the limitations of his view of evolution 
when he writes that " the final cause of these colours is 
readily understood, as they serve some purpose of the animal, 
but the efficient cause would seem almost beyond con- 
jecture/ 5 * 

The geologists had not then begun to ask for those 
rcons with which men like Lyell have made us so 
familiar. Darwin anticipates them when he holds : " From 
thus meditating upon the minute portion of time in which 
many of the above changes have been produced, would it be 
too bold to imagine, in the great length of time since the earth 
began to exist, perhaps millions of ages before the commence- 
ment of the history of mankind, that all warm-blooded 
animals have arisen from one living filament, which the first 
great Cause imbued with animality, with the power of 
acquiring new parts, attended with new propensities, directed 
by irritations, sensations, volitions, and associations, and thus 
possessing the faculty of continuing to improve by its own 
inherent activity, and of delivering down those improvements 
by generation (i.e. inheritance) to posterity, world without 
end ? " This is a statement at least as far-reaching as that 
of Kant, based of course on a profounder knowledge of 
plants and animals. 

All forms of life, Darwin holds stoutly, proceed from a 
single filament. Irritability, excitability, sensibility these 
stimulate the growth of this filament. " The most essential 
parts of the system are first formed by the irritations (of 
hunger, thirst, etc., above mentioned) and by the pleasurable 

* Ibid., p. 510. 


sensations attending those irritations, and by exertions in 
consequence of painful sensations, similar to those of hunger 
and suffocation. ... In confirmation of these ideas, it 
may be observed that all parts of the body endeavour to grow 
or to make additional parts of themselves throughout our 
lives/' * Carrying this idea of sensibility and irritability 
into plant life as well as into animal, he frames a theory of 
plant evolution similar to that of animal evolution. On the 
origin of plants he mentions the suggestion of Linnaeus: 
" And that from thence, as Linnaeus has conjectured in 
respect to the vegetable world, it is not impossible but the 
great variety of species of animals which now tenant the 
earth, may have had their origin from the mixture of a 
few natural orders." Be this as it may, the plants possess 
the sensibility and the irritability of animals. When he 
digested these views we can well understand Charles Darwin 
writing : " It is curious how largely my grandfather, Dr. 
Erasmus Darwin, anticipated the views and erroneous 
grounds of opinion of Lamarck in his Zoonomia" 

The most outstanding name in the long history of the 
theory of evolution between the days of Aristotle and Charles 
Darwin is that of Jeanne Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, 
otherwise known as the Chevalier de Lamarck (17441829). 
If ever there was a fair-minded man, it was Charles Darwin, 
yet he never refers to either Lamarck or his work except 
with disdain. His verdict on him is given in the following 
passage of a letter to Sir Charles Lyell, written in March 
1863 : " Lastly, you refer repeatedly to my view as a modifica- 
tion of Lamarck's doctrine of development and progression. 
If this is your deliberate opinion there is nothing to be said, 
but it does not seem so to me. Plato, Buffon, my grand- 
father, before Lamarck and others propounded the obvious 
view that if species were not created separately they must 
have descended from other species, and I can see nothing 
else in common between the Origin and Lamarck. I believe 
this way of putting the case is very injurious to its acceptance, 
as it implies necessary progression, and closely connects 
Wallace's and my views with what I consider, after two 
deliberate readings, as a wretched book, and one from which 
(I well remember to my surprise) I gained nothing." 
* Zoonomia, XXXIX, 3. 


" But/ 5 adds Darwin, with a little touch of banter, " I 
know you rank it higher, which is curious, as it did not in the 
least shake your belief * ... to me it was an absolutely 
useless book/' f There are not many instances where 
posterity has refused to confirm such a judgment of the 
man popularly supposed to be the father of evolutionary 
doctrine. In this instance the step fatherly attitude is more 
apparent than the fatherly. 

The career of Lamarck is one of the most singular in 
the whole history of science, for where, with the possible 
exception of Kant, shall we meet with a man whose leading 
ideas were given to the world after the age of fifty? lie 
first turned his attention towards botany. He travelled in 
Europe as a companion to Buffon's son, but, unlike Darwin 
and Hooker and Huxley, he never travelled outside Europe, 
and this proved a lasting loss to biological science. Devoid 
of that rich experience of his three successors, there were gaps 
in his knowledge which no mere reading could atone for. 
Lyell regarded travel as the first, second, and third requisites 
for a geologist, and one of the gravest blows to biology lies in 
the fact that Lamarck never travelled save in Europe. This 
meant that in the days to come he committed mistake after 
mistake when he employed illustrations to confirm the truth of 
his leading illuminating conceptions. Men argued that 
because the illustrations were faulty, so too were the con- 
ceptions. It proved not difficult to ignore the man 
who explained the webbed feet of birds as clue to their being 
attracted to swampy ground by hunger, to their then making 
efforts to swim, thus spreading their toes, and stretching the 
skin between them. It proved not difficult to ignore the man 
who explained the origin of the horns in ruminant animals 
by the efforts they have made to butt their heads together 
in their periods of anger, thus giving rise to a secretion of 
matter upon their forehead. J It proved not difficult to ignore 

* F. Darwin, Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, III, p. 14. 

t Ibid., p. 16; cf. pp. 23, 29, 39. Packard says that Darwin attributes 
to Lamarck statements which so careful a student of Lamarck's writings 
as Packard cannot trace. Cf. Packard, Lamarck, p. 74. As well as 
Packard's important book on Lamarck, cf. also E. Perier, La Philosophic 
Zoologique devant Darwin. 

$ Cf. Cuvier, "Eloere de Lamarck," November 26, 1832, Mem. de 
VAcad. des Sciences, XIII, p. 20. Lyell criticises Lamarck fairly in his 
Principles of Geology, II, bk, III, chaps, i-iv. 


the man who explained the rapid movements of the deer by 
saying that the fleet types of ruminants have been exposed 
to the attacks of carnivorous animals, and therefore have been 
forced to fly. Take his account of the limbs of the snake : 
" The snakes sprang from reptiles with four extremities, 
but having taken up the habit of moving along the earth and 
concealing themselves among bushes, their bodies, owing to 
repeated efforts to elongate themselves and to pass out through 
narrow spaces, have acquired a considerable length out of 
all proportion to their width. Since long feet would have 
been very useless, and short feet would have been incapable 
of moving their bodies, there resulted a cessation of use of 
these parts, which has finally caused them totally to disappear, 
although they were originally part of the plan of organisation 
in these animals/' 

Men found it easy to note flaws in his illustrations, and 
they jumped to the conclusion that there were just as many 
flaws in his ideas. This of course was not the case, but the 
scientists of his time choose to imagine that it was. At the 
age of forty-nine the Directory transferred him from botany 
to the chair in zoology at the Jardin des Plantes. As 
Huxley turned from physiology to palaeontology, so Lamarck 
changed from botany to zoology. At the same time Geoffroy 
Saint-Hilaire assumed charge of the vertebrates, he assumed 
charge of the invertebrates. Forty-nine is usually an age 
when a man's big work is done. With Lamarck, on the 
contrary, his big work lay before him. Poor as Diderot, he 
was as devoted to truth as the famous editor of the 
Encyclopedia. Too poverty-stricken to buy expensive in- 
struments, his inferior instruments combined with his 
devotion to the small forms of life gradually deprived him 
of the use of his sight, and in 1819 he became totally blind. 
There is a touch of pathos in the introduction to the last 
edition of his Animaux sans Vertebres that might have 
moved the heart of Darwin. Lamarck lacked appreciation 
abroad, for his books found but few readers, but he never 
lacked appreciation at home. His daughter was so devoted 
to him that when his grievous calamity overtook him, she 
never left him. The last two volumes of the first edition of 
his Histoire Naturelle des Animaux sans Vertebres, begun 


in 1816 and finished in 1822, he dictated to his daughter. If 
there were poverty of goods in his home, there was no 
poverty of affection or spirit. If there was uncommonly 
plain living, there was uncommonly high thinking. The 
thoughts were met with a disdain that rivalled Charles 
Darwin's and with a neglect that forms a permanent disgrace 
to science. 

His Recherches sur les Causes des Principaux Faits 
Physiques was written in 1766, presented to the Academy 
in 1780, and published in 1794, the year of the publication 
of the Zoonomia. In it he exhibits his strong belief in the 
immutability of species and his equally strong disbelief in 
the theory of the spontaneous origin of life. These were his 
botanical days, not his zoological ones. Just as it is possible 
to maintain that there were two Carlyles (the one who wrote 
before 1850, and the other after that date), so it is quite 
possible to maintain that there were two Lamarcks (the one 
who wrote before 1793, and the other after that date). 
The second Lamarck published in 1802 his Hydro- 
gcologie, anticipating Lyell in suggesting uniformitarian 
ideas in geology, and proposing the term " biology " 
for the first time for the sciences of life. The year 
1802 was surely a memorable one in biology, for during it 
Lamarck also put forth his Recherches sur V Organisation des 
Corps Vivants. Employing the works of Aristotle, he lays 
down two main principles * : first, it is not organs which have 
given rise to habits, but habits, modes of life, and environment 
which have given rise to organs. This he illustrates by the 
blindness of the mole, by the presence of teeth in mammals 
and by the absence of teeth in birds. His second principle 
is that life is an order and condition of things in the parts 
of all bodies which possess it, which renders possible all the 
organic movements within. At the very time Lamarck was 
proclaiming these views, Erasmus Darwin was pro- 
claiming similar ones. Why not? Just as Charles Darwin and 
Alfred Russel Wallace were simultaneously working at the 
theory of evolution, just as John Couch Adams and Lever rier 
simultaneously discovered the planet Neptune, so Lamarck 
and Erasmus Darwin were working out similar evolutionary 
conceptions which were nothing short of revolutionary. 
* I use the convenient summary of Osborn, p. 160, 


Lamarck's magnum opus was his Philosophic Zoologique, 
published in 1809, but it made little stir, for Cuvier opposed it 
with all the powers of his great genius. In it combined with 
his later Histoire Naturelle we possess his generalisations 
on the mutability and variability of species, on the influence 
of the environment on the habits, and through them and 
inheritance on the forms of living creatures. There is a 
complete break with the doctrine of the fixity of species and 
with the permanence and recurrence of types.* In a word, 
there had been a statical or morphological attitude towards 
problems, and it was now replaced by a kinetic or genetic 
one. He distinctly lays down the doctrine that man is 
descended from an ape-like ancestor, which gradually 
acquired an upright position, not even yet wholly natural 
to the human race. We may, if we like, lay stress on the 
factor of adaptation put prominently forward, on the idea 
of the dependence of living things on their milieu, on the 
view that in the graduated scale of living things there is an 
increasing independence with regard to the external environ- 
ment, or on the modifying influences which Lamarck 
emphasised. The vital matter is what he expressed in the 
words : " All that Nature has caused individuals to acquire or 
lose by the influences of environment to which they have been 
long exposed, and consequently by the influence of the 
predominant employment of a certain organ, or by that of 
the continued lack of use of the same part all this Nature 
conserves by generation to the new individuals which arise, 
provided that these acquired variations (changements) are 
common to both sexes, or to those which have produced these 
new individuals." This is the law of the inheritance of 
acquired characters, and was substantially enunciated by 
Erasmus Darwin. In his Philosophic Zoologique Lamarck 
put his doctrine concisely : " But great changes in environ- 
ment bring about changes in the habits of animals. Changes 
in their wants necessarily bring about parallel changes in their 
habits. If new wants become constant or very lasting, they 
form new habits, the new habits involve the use of new parts, 
or a different use of old parts, which results finally in the pro- 

* Cf. J. V. Carus, Geschichte der Zoologie, p. 723; K. E. von Baer, 
Reden und wisscnschaftlichc Abhandlungcn, II, p. 258. Cf. Horner, Life 
of Sir C. Lyell, I, p. 168; II, p. 365. 


duction of new organs and the modification of old ones." 
He saw with the utmost clearness that lower types like the 
Molluscs had given way to the higher, but he failed to see 
that higher types like the Mastodon and the Paleotherium 
could also be extinguished. He demonstrated the persistency 
of these lower types. When his colleague, Geoffroy Saint- 
Hilaire, brought back his collection of mummied cats and 
other animals from the tombs of Egypt, it was at once evident 
that they were identical with the actual living representatives 
of the same species. This seemed rebutting evidence against 
his Transmission theory. His reply was that in Egypt, that 
land of surprises, there had been no substantial alteration in 
the environment, the soil and the climate remaining un- 
changed. Under these circumstances, animals naturally 
retained their old habits. Why should they change them? 
No cause was alleged for their doing so. Therefore the 
persistence of their characters was readily demonstrated. If 
he could only have explained away so satisfactorily his 
explanation of the shape of the snake ! 

Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749 1832) was great as a 
scientist, though the world will persist in forgetting this 
aspect of his many-sided intellect. The recognition Lamarck 
never received in his lifetime would have been his had 
Goethe only happened to have glanced at the ignored 
Philosophic Zoologique. Goethe, to the permanent loss of 
science, abandoned Loder for Schiller, and Linnaeus for 
Shakespeare. Yet he discovered the vertebrate theory of the 
skull and made his studies on the metamorphoses of the 
plants. In his Metamorphoses of Plants Goethe anticipated 
Lamarck as an evolutionist, and to the very last he always 
evinced the liveliest interest in scientific thought. In his 
Metamorphoses of Animals, published in 1819, he writes: 

All members develop themselves according to eternal laws, 

And the rarest form mysteriously preserves the primitive type. 

Form, therefore, determines the animal's way of life, 

And in turn the way of life powerfully reacts upon all form. 

Thus the orderly growth of form is seen to hold 

Whilst yielding to change from externally acting causes. 

It is tragical to have to record that the poet died three years 
earlier than Lamarck, and yet had never heard of the blind 
zoologist ! 



CHARLES ROBERT DARWIN (1809 1882) was the fifth child 
and second son of Robert Waring Darwin and Susannah 
Wedgwood, and was born on February 12, 1809,* at Shrews- 
bury, where his father was a physician with a large practice. 
No doubt he inherited from his grandfather Erasmus the 
inborn tendencies to look at nature in the same observant way. 
Erasmus Darwin had defined a fool to his friend Edgeworth 
as " a man who never tried an experiment in his life." 
Curiously enough, though he tried them, he was wanting in 
that rigorous and patient inductive habit that was to mark 
his grandson Charles. Sir Francis Darwin records that 
R. W. Darwin had no pretensions to the character of a man 
of science, no tendency to generalise his knowledge, and 
" though a successful physician he was guided more by intui- 
tion and everyday observation than by a deep knowledge of 
his subject."! One of our facile generalisations is to remark, 
in this and sundry other like cases, that the mental energy 
skips a generation. People have said so in the case of the in- 
termediate Mendelssohn who was the son of Moses Mendels- 
sohn, the philosopher, and father of Felix Mendelssohn- 
Bartholdy, the composer that mere link in a marvellous 
chain who was wont to observe of himself in the decline of 
life, that in his youth he was called the son of the great 
Mendelssohn, and in his old age the father of the great Men- 
delssohn. Is actual skipping possible in the nature of things? 
We gravely doubt it. In the particular instance of R. W. 
Darwin we may feel pretty confident that the distinctive 
Darwinian strain lay latent rather than dormant. Attaining 
in his time sufficient eminence to become a Fellow of the 

* Abraham Lincoln was also born on February 12, 1809, 
| F. Darwin, Life of C. Darwin, p. i (1892 cd.), 


Royal Society, an honour rarely accorded to a country doctor, 
Charles Darwin records of him, " He was incomparably the 
most acute observer whom I ever knew." Nor is there any 
reason to think that this is simply a tribute paid by filial 
piety. For potentiality is wider than actuality : what a man 
does is no certain criterion of what he can do. When 
Charles Darwin records that his father " formed a theory 
for almost everything that occurred/'* we are not left in 
much doubt on the influence of heredity. 

Among the brothers of R. W. Darwin were Charles, the 
eldest (1758 1778), who gave the highest promise, studied 
medicine at Edinburgh, received the medal of the ^Esculapian 
Society, and died from a wound received in dissecting. 
Among the cousins of Charles Darwin are Hensleigh Wedg- 
wood, the philologist ; the late Sir Henry Holland ; and Fran- 
cis Galton, the author of that essentially Darwinian book, 
Hereditary Genius. Among the sons of Charles Darwin 
are Sir George Howard Darwin, Plumian Professor of 
Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy at the University 
of Cambridge, and brother to three other Darwins who 
have distinguished themselves in mathematics, engineering, 
botany, and geographical science. Though the bent of the 
Darwins was to natural science, the mind of Sir George, 
tinged by the mentality of his mother's family, the Wedg- 
woods, and more distantly by that of the Galtons, was mathe- 
matical. R. W. Darwin married Susannah Wedgwood, 
daughter of Josiah Wedgwood, the potter, who, by his 
marked originality and force of character, succeeded in 
turning the current of national taste towards wares of a 
higher type of artistic workmanship. His trials of method 
and materials were carried out in the exhaustive spirit of 
true scientific inquiry, and conduced to many improvements. 
He possessed a great power of adaptation, and an inventive 
faculty which revealed itself not only in new methods and 
new materials, but in the origination of new forms. Can 
we doubt that an ancestor who was a practical thrower,f an 
expert modeller, and an ingenious designer left his mark 
upon his grandson Charles? 

In the summer of 1818 Charles Darwin entered as a 

* F. Darwin, Life and Letters of C. Darwin, I, p. 20 ; cf . I, p. 103. 
t In handicraft 


boarder at Shrewsbury school under Dr. Butler. The edu- 
cation given was on old-fashioned classical lines, and the 
lad gained little from it. In his Autobiography he tells us 
that he had much zeal for whatever interested him, and he 
worked pretty hard at Euclid and practical chemistry in an 
extemporised laboratory. His enthusiasm for chemical 
studies kept him late at work, earning for him the nickname 
of " Gas " from his schoolfellows, and also earning for him 
a public rebuke from the headmaster, " for this wasting my 
time on such useless subjects; and he called me very unjustly 
a poco curante, and as I did not understand what he meant, 
it seemed to me a fearful reproach." * He learnt many 
lines of Homer and Virgil off by heart, admiring greatly the 
odes of Horace. He spent hours over the historical plays of 
Shakespeare, Thomson's Seasons, and the recently published 
poems of Byron and Scott. The pleasure he derived from 
reading poetry conspired to arouse in him in 1822 a vivid 
delight in scenery. Early in his schooldays a boy lent him 
a copy of the Wonders of the World, which he often read, 
and disputed with other boys about the veracity of some of 
the statements; " and I believe that this book gave me a wish 
to travel in remote countries, which was ultimately fulfilled 
by the voyage in the Beagle" t 

At school he had made himself notable by his love of col- 
lecting the first nascent symptom of the naturalistic bent. 
He collected everything: shells, eggs, minerals, coins, even, 
since postage stamps had not then been invented, franks. 
He has himself described the zeal with which, as a boy and 
a young man, he gave himself up to shooting, a passion which 
only gradually faded before his stronger delight in unravel- 
ling the geology of an unknown country. As it was intended 
that he should follow his father's profession of medicine, 
in 1825 he joined his brother Erasmus at Edinburgh Uni- 
versity. With the one exception of Hope, the Professor of 
Chemistry, Darwin found them all " intolerably dull.'" We 
learn that the Professor of Anatomy made his lectures " as 
dull as he was himself." In spite of his early interest, the 
prelections of the Professor of Geology and Zoology were 
so " incredibly dull " that they produced on their hearer the 

* F. Darwin, Life of C. Darwin, p. 10 (1892 ed.), 
f Ibid., p. ii (1892 ed.), 


resolution never " to read a book on geology or in any way 
to study the science. "* Jameson was a Wernerian geologist 
who spent his time sneering at the Huttonians. The outcome 
in the subject of anatomy was particularly unfortunate, for 
as Darwin never practised dissection he was continually han- 
dicapped in his future researches. Twice he attended the 
operating theatre, and the ensuing nausea in one of these 
cases was such that he felt obliged to rush away before the 
surgeon had completed his task. As there was no chloro- 
form in those days, it is not hard to imagine that these two 
cases fairly haunted the young medical student for many a 
long year. He gave, however, distinct evidence of his tastes 
by contributing to the Plinian Society at the beginning of 
1826 a paper on the floating eggs of the common sea-mat, 
in which he succeeded in discovering for the first time organs 
of locomotion. Like many an undergraduate, he experi- 
enced more pleasure and profit in meeting his fellow-under- 
graduates than in meeting the professors. 

On the conclusion of two years at Edinburgh, medicine was 
abandoned as a profession, and Darwin contemplated taking 
Holy Orders. To his dismay he found that he had forgotten 
his classics, and had to learn almost everything, " even to 
some few of the Greek letters/' f Working with a private 
tutor in Shrewsbury, he soon recovered his school standard, 
and was able to translate easy Greek books, such as Homer 
and the Greek Testament, with moderate facility. As he 
must possess a degree in arts to be ordained, he entered 
Christ's College, Cambridge, and came up in the Lent term of 
1828. Christ's College claims that on its bead-roll it has the 
name of John Milton, the writer of the epic of the special 
creation theory, which another of its sons, Charles Darwin, 
destroyed. He read the Thirty-nine Articles and he studied 
Pearson's great book on The Creed, and the study of other 
books, as well as these, left him convinced that he could con- 
scientiously present himself for ordination. He read intently 
Paley's Moral Philosophy, his Evidences of Christianity, and 
his Natural Theology, and the perusal of the last two gave 
him as much delight as did Euclid. J Was it the case that 

* F. Darwin, Life and Letters of C. Darwin, I, p. 14. 
t Ibid., p. 17. 
t Ibid., p. 47. 


just as Paley proleptically accepted the doctrine of evolution, 
so Darwin was getting ready to accept it? It is rather 
remarkable that three of the men who most influenced his 
thought were all clergymen. For Paley, Malthus, the 
author of Essay on the Principle of Population, and Henslow, 
the Professor of Botany at Cambridge, were all three of 
them in Holy Orders. Darwin's Edinburgh lecturers were 
not clergymen, and they repelled him, whereas his Cambridge 
lecturers were clergymen, and they attracted him. Nor 
was this attraction due to the circumstance that he then 
thought of becoming ordained, for the Rev. Dr. Sedgwick 
and the Rev. J. S. Henslow were Professors of Geology and 
Botany respectively in the University of Cambridge. Dar- 
win's natural taste for geology, chilled by his Edinburgh 
teachers, revived during an excursion with Professor Sedg- 
wick, who insisted that " science consists in grouping facts 
so that general laws and conclusions may be drawn from 
them." * Both Sedgwick and Henslow used to take their 
pupils field excursions, on foot or in coaches, to distant places, 
and they lectured on fossils and plants to the utter content 
of their audience. Henslow was a singularly attractive char- 
acter who introduced into his parishes the voluntary study 
of botany with signal success, and he also introduced cricket 
and athletic clubs, allotments and parish excursions, benefit 
clubs and horticultural shows in the fifties, when such insti- 
tutions were very uncommon. Nor was his enthusiasm con- 
fined to his successive parishes. In Cambridge he proved 
that he could communicate to his men the zeal and the know- 
ledge that eminently characterised him. Darwin, his 
favourite pupil, always manifested the deepest regard for 
him, calling him on his death in 1861 his " dear old master 
in Natural History." | 

While at Edinburgh, Darwin had taken a vow to cease to 
think of geology. It was Henslow who induced him to 
break it. Through Henslow the undergraduate obtained 
permission to accompany Sedgwick on one of his excursions 
in Wales. Above all, Henslow recommended him to buy and 
to study the then recently published volume of Lyell^s 
Principles of Geology. With this recommendation there 

* F. Darwin, Letters of C. Darwin, p. 24. 

t F. Darwin, Life and Letters of C. Darwin, II, p. 217. 


went also the admonition not to allow himself to be swept 
off his feet by the fascination of Lyell's views. This warn- 
ing was unheeded, for Darwin writes : " After my return 
to England it appeared to me that by following the example 
of Lyell in Geology, and by collecting all the facts which 
bore in any way on the variation of animals and plants under 
domestication and nature, some light might perhaps be thrown 
upon the whole subject [of the origin of species]."* It 
was through Henslow, and at his suggestion, that Darwin was 
offered the appointment to the Beagle as naturalist. What 
Helmholtz experienced when he came into contact with 
Johannes Mtiller, Darwin, in his own fashion, felt when he 
came to know the character as well as the mind of John 
Stevens Henslow. 

Darwin's passion for collecting renewed itself in Cam- 
bridge. In childhood it had been damped by the moral 
scruples of a sister, as to the propriety of catching and kill- 
ing insects for the mere sake of possessing them. The 
neighbouring fens afforded him the opportunity of capturing 
beetles. It was, he confesses, the passion of collecting for 
its own sake, for he did not dissect them, and rarely com- 
pared their external characters with published descriptions. 
" I will give a proof of my zeal : one day, on tearing off some 
old bark, I saw two rare beetles, and seized one in each hand ; 
then I saw a third and new kind, which I could not bear to 
lose, so that I popped the one which I held in my right hand 
into my mouth. Alas! it ejected some intensely acrid fluid, 
which burnt my tongue so that I was forced to spit the beetle 
out, which was lost, as was the third one. 11 f His delight lay 
in the capture of a species which turned out to be rare or 
new, for then he could read in print the magic words, " Cap- 
tured by C. Darwin, Esq." Obviously this was his old love 
of sport simply assuming a new form, and his father believed 
that " he cared for nothing but shooting, dogs, and rat- 
catching." :j: 

If men like Sedgwick and Henslow influenced him, so too 
did the books of men like Paley, Humboldt, and Sir J. 

* F. Darwin, Life and Letters of C. Darwin, I, p. 83. Cf. Darwin's 
dedication of the second edition of the Journal of a Naturalist. 
f F. Darwin, Life of C. Danvin, p. 20 (1892 ed.). 
t F. Darwin, Life and Letters of C. Darwin, I, p. 32. 


Herschel. Humboldt's Personal Narrative and Herschers 
Introduction to the Study of Natural Philosophy stirred the 
undergraduate reader to think that he too might make a 
modest contribution to the noble structure of Natural His- 
tory. The attractions of science increasingly prevailed over 
the labours of the ministry. " My whole course of life," 
says Darwin in sending a message to Humboldt, "is 
due to having read and re-read, as a youth, his personal 
narrative." * The description of Teneriffe moved him so 
strongly that he was seized with a lively desire to visit the 
island, inquiring about ships and the like. 

While Darwin was turning over in his mind his project 
of a trip to Teneriffe, the Government decided to send a brig 
of 235 tons, the Beagle, under command of Captain Fitz- 
Roy, to complete the unfinished survey of Patagonia and 
Tierra del Fuego, to map out the shores of Chili and Peru, 
to visit several of the Pacific archipelagoes, and to carry a 
chain of chronometrical measurements round the whole 
world. This was an essentially scientific expedition, and 
Captain FitzRoy, afterwards famous as the meteorological 
admiral, was an officer of the finest type. lie was anxious 
to be accompanied on his cruise by a competent naturalist 
who would undertake the collection and preservation of the 
animals and plants discovered on the voyage, for which pur- 
pose he generously offered to give up a share of his own 
cabin accommodation. Professor Henslow seized upon 
this opportunity of recommending young Darwin, " grandson 
of the poet." In his letter of August 24, 1831, he writes: 
" I have stated that I consider you to be the best qualified 
person I know who is likely to undertake such a situation. 
I state this not on the supposition of your being a finished 
naturalist, but as amply qualified for collecting, observing, 
and noting anything worthy to be noted in Natural History. 
. . . The voyage is to last two years, and if you take plenty 
of books with you, anything you please may be done." f 
Darwin gladly volunteered his services without salary, and 
partly paid his own expenses on condition of being permitted 
to retain in his own possession the plants and animals he col- 
lected on his journey. The Beagle set sail from Devonport 

* F. Darwin, Life and Letters of C. Darwin, I, p. 336. 
f Ibid., I, p. 193. 


on December 27, 1831, and she returned to Falmouth on 
October 2, 1836. The opportunity that had been denied to 
Lamarck was now in the fullest measure to be Darwin's, 
and right nobly he used it. 

Aristotle and Voltaire were never tired of dwelling on the 
small springs on which the greater events of history turn. 
Pascal continued this train of thought.* Does not Burke f 
inform us of the case of " a common soldier, a child, and a 
girl at the door of an inn " who " changed the face of for- 
tune and almost of nature " ? t We are, however, getting 
tired of hearing that another sort of tilt to Cleopatra's nose, 
and the history of the world might have flown in a different 
channel. Soberly, nineteenth-century thought might have 
undergone a similar transformation, for Captain FitzRoy 
was on the point of rejecting Darwin on account of the 
shape of his nose. " The voyage of the Beagle/' confesses 
Darwin, " has been by far the most important event in my 
life, and has determined my whole career; yet it depended on 
so small a circumstance as my uncle offering to drive me 
thirty miles to Shrewsbury, which few uncles would have 
done, and on such a trifle as the shape of my nose." 

The last year of a man reading for high honours is by far 
the most important, mentally speaking, in his whole 
academical career. Up to that time for the most part 
he takes the opinions offered to him by his tutors as a 
matter of course. During his last year he weighs opinions 
for the first time with critical care. The gulf separating 
a man just matriculated or even a man in his third year from 
a man in his last year is scarcely to be bridged by 
any mental effort. This experience did not come to 
Darwin, for he only took a pass degree. To the able man, 
however, such an experience conies sooner or later, and 
accordingly it came to Darwin on board the Beagle. " I have 
always felt," he owns, " that I owe to the voyage the first 
real training or education of my mind; I was led to attend 
closely to several branches of natural history, and thus my 
powers of observation were improved, though they were al- 

* Pascal, Pcnsees, 1829 ed., p. 137. 
t In the Regicide Peace. 

t Cf. my Erasmus and Luther: their Attitude to Toleration, pp. 67-8. 
F. Darwin, Life of C. Darwin, p. 27 (1892 ed.). Cf. N. Pirogoff, 
Klinischc Chirurgie, p. 32. 



ways fairly developed. " * Nor is the parallel with college life 
without instruction when we note that he spent five years on 
the voyage. These were his Wander jahre, the years on 
which Goethe lays such stress, when he investigated at close 
quarters the teeming life of the tropics. 

It is significant that Darwin, Hooker, and Huxley began 
their scientific career by long voyages or travels with the 
Navy, Wallace and Bates in the South American tropics. 
With most of them the way to science proved long and diffi- 
cult. But this was not all loss ; strength grows in a man who 

grasps the skirt of happy chance 
And breasts the blows of circumstance 
And grapples with his evil star. 

The particular countries visited by the Beagle during the 
course of her long and varied cruise, as Mr. Grant Allen 
ably shows, happened to be exactly such as were naturally 
best adapted for bringing out the latent potentialities of 
Darwin's mind, and suggesting to his active and receptive 
brain those deep problems of life and its environment which 
he afterwards wrought out with such subtle skill and such 
consummate patience in the Origin of Species and the 
Descent of Man. The Cape Verde and the other Atlan- 
tic islands, with their scanty population of plants and animals, 
composed for the most part of waifs and strays drifted to 
their barren rocks by ocean currents, or blown out helplessly 
to sea by heavy winds ; Brazil, with its marvellous contrast- 
ing wealth of tropical luxuriance and self-strangling fer- 
tility, a new province of interminable delights to the soul of 
the enthusiastic young collector ; the South American pampas, 
with their colossal remains of extinct animals, huge geological 
precursors of the stunted modern sloths and armadillos that 
still inhabit the self-same plains; Tierra del Fuego, with its 
almost Arctic climate, and its glimpses into the secrets of 
the most degraded savage types; the vast range of the Andes 
and the Cordilleras, with their volcanic energy and their 
closely crowded horizontal belts of climatic life; the South 
Sea Islands, those paradises of the Pacific, Hesperian fables 
come true, alike for the lover of the picturesque and the 
biological student; Australia, that surviving fragment of an 
extinct world, with an antiquated fauna whose archaic 

* F. Darwin, Life of C. Darwin, p. 27 (1892 ed.). 


character still closely recalls the European life of ten million 
years back in the secondary epoch : all these and many others 
equally novel and equally instructive passed in long alter- 
nating panorama before Darwin's eyes, and left their images 
deeply photographed for ever after on the lasting tablets of 
his retentive memory. That was the real great university 
in which he studied nature and read for his degree, which 
assuredly this time was no pass degree. Our evolutionist 
was undergoing a thorough process of education. 

At all the places he touched he investigated geological phe- 
nomena most carefully, for here he thought that reasoning 
comes into play. On first examining a new district, he tells 
us, nothing can appear more hopeless than the chaos of rocks ; 
but by recording the stratification and nature of the rocks and 
fossils at many points, always reasoning and predicting what 
will be found elsewhere, light soon begins to dawn on the 
district, and the structure of the whole becomes more or less 
intelligible. The underlying causes plainly interested him, 
and here he had to make his choice between the catastrophic 
system of the Wernerians, of which his old Edinburgh pro- 
fessor, Jameson, was a leader, and the system of the Hut- 
tonians, of which Sir Charles Lyell was a master. His 
Principles of Geology he perused with the utmost attention, 
and, in spite of the cautious attitude advocated towards it 
by another old professor, Henslow, Darwin became con- 
vinced the moment he examined the very first place on the 
voyage, St. Jago, in the Cape Verde islands, of the amaz- 
ing superiority of the Lyell ian methods. Might he not apply 
the principles of the great Scotsman to the geology of the 
countries he was about to visit ? Such a thought gave him a 
thrill of delight.* Even before the Beagle touched her first 
land he had observed that the impalpably fine dust which fell 
on deck contained no fewer than sixty-seven distinct organic 
forms, two of them belonging to species peculiar to South 
America. In some of the dust he found particles of stone so 
big that they measured " above the thousandth of an inch 
square " ; and after this fact " one need not be surprised at 
the diffusion of the far lighter and smaller sporules of cryp- 
togamic plants." May we not trace in these observations the 
hereditary tendencies of Josiah Wedgwood, whose minute 
* F. Darwin, Life of C. Darwin, p. 29 (1892 ed.). 


investigation and accuracy of detail were reflected in his 
pottery? May we not also trace in them the influence of his 
incomparable teacher, Henslow? 

Henslow had candidly stated that though he considered his 
favourite pupil amply qualified for the task of collection, yet 
he did not suppose he was by any means a finished naturalist, 
and indeed some of Darwin's labours on the voyage suffi- 
ciently attest this. The young naturalist collected copious 
details upon the surface fauna. But as he had little 
knowledge of drawing, less knowledge of comparative 
anatomy, and least knowledge of dissection, it is not a 
matter of wonder that he accumulated much manuscript 
that was useless. True, he acquired acquaintance 
with the marine Crustacea, and made observations on 
Planariae and on the ubiquitous Sagitta and that was the 
tale of all he had accomplished. Thanks to the train- 
ing of Henslow and to Ly ell's book, the case was alto- 
gether different with his geology. The work begun at St. 
Jago was continued throughout a voyage that marked an 
epoch in his mental growth. His subsequent study of the 
tertiary deposits and of the terraced gravel beds of South 
America turned his thoughts increasingly in a geological 
direction. His letters from South America contain mostly 
geological references, and even then he had begun to think of 
his theory of the formation of coral reefs as due to the exten- 
sive and gradual changes revealed by the geology of South 
America. " No other work," he holds, " of mine was begun 
in so deductive a spirit as this; for the whole theory was 
thought out on the west coast of South America, before I 
had seen a true coral reef. I had, therefore, only to verify 
and extend my views by a careful examination of living; 
reefs." * On May 18, 1882, he wrote to Henslow: "One 
great source of perplexity to me is an utter ignorance whether 
I note the right facts, and whether they are of sufficient 
importance to interest others. 

" Geology carries the day: it is like the pleasure of gam- 
bling. Speculating, on first arriving, what the rocks may 
be, I often mentally cry out 3 to I tertiary against primitive; 
but the latter have hitherto won all the bets." f 

* F. Darwin, Life and Letters of C. Darwin, I, p. 70. 
t F. Darwin, Life of C. Darwin, p. 134 (1892 ed.). 


To an old Cambridge friend, the Rev. William Darwin 
Fox, he wrote in July 1835, when about to start from 
Lima to the Galapagos : " I am glad to hear you have some 
thoughts of beginning Geology. I hope you will; there is 
so much larger a field for thought than in the other branches 
of Natural History. I am become a zealous disciple of Mr. 
Lyell's views, as known in his admirable book. Geologising 
in South America, I am tempted to carry parts to a greater 
extent even than he does. Geology is a capital science to 
begin, as it requires nothing but a little reading, thinking, 
and hammering. I have a considerable body of notes to- 
gether; but it is a constant subject of perplexity to me, 
whether they are of sufficient value for all the time I have 
spent about them, or whether animals would not have been 
of more certain value." * 

Henslow thought so much of Darwin's letters and obser- 
vations that he had them printed and circulated them pri- 
vately, and had read some of them before the Philosophical 
Society of Cambridge. His collection of fossil bones, which 
he had sent to Henslow, had also excited considerable atten- 
tion among palaeontologists. Evidently Henslow wrote him 
an encouraging letter. For " after reading this letter, I 
clambered over the mountains of Ascension with a bounding 
step and made the volcanic rocks resound under my geo- 
logical hammer. All this shows how ambitious I was ; but I 
think that I can say with truth that in after-years, though I 
cared in the highest degree for the approbation of such men 
as Lyell and Hooker, who were my friends, I did not care 
much about the general public. I do not mean to say that a 
favourable review or a large sale of my books did not please 
me greatly, but the pleasure was a fleeting one, and I am sure 
that I have never turned one inch out of my course to gain 

The hearty praise of men in the position of Sedgwick and 
Henslow meant everything to the young traveller. While at 
Ascension he received a letter in which his sisters told him 
that Sedgwick had called upon his father, saying that " I 
should take a place among the leading scientific raen." J 
Nor was this merely praise to warm the parental heart. For 

* F. Darwin, Letters of C. Darwin, p. 135 (1892 ed.). 
t Ibid., p. 30. t Ibid., p. 30. 


Sedgwick wrote on November 7, 1835, to Dr. Butler, the 
headmaster of Shrewsbury who had called Darwin a poco 
cur ante, that the lad he had censured " is doing admirable 
work in South America, and has already sent home a col- 
lection above price. It was the best thing in the world that 
he went out on the voyage of discovery. There was some 
risk of his turning out an idle man, but his character will 
now be fixed, and if God spares his life he will have a great 
name among the naturalists of Europe." * We have heard 
so much of clerical opposition to Darwin ideas that it is 
refreshing, on investigating the facts, to ascertain that such 
devoted clergymen as Henslow and Sedgwick, with all the 
weight of their academic positions, did all they could to afford 
encouragement to Darwin while he was winning not when 
he had won his spurs. To his sister Susan he wrote in 
August 1836: "Both your letters were full of good news; 
especially the expressions which you tell me Professor Sedg- 
wick used about my collections. I confess they are deeply 
gratifying. I trust one part at least will turn out to be true, 
and that I shall act as I now think as a man who dares to 
waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life. 
Professor Sedgwick mentioning my name at all gives me 
hopes that he will assist me with his advice, of which, in my 
geological questions, I stand much in need.f 

On his return home he wrote to Henslow on October 6, 
1836 : " I am sure you will congratulate me on the delight of 
once again being home. The Beagle arrived at Falmouth 
on Sunday evening, and I reached Shrewsbury yesterday 
morning. I am exceedingly anxious to see you, and as it 
will be necessary in four or five days to return to London to 
get my goods and chattels out of the Beagle, it appears to 
me my best plan to pass through Cambridge. I want your 
advice on many points ; indeed I am in the clouds, and neither 
know what to do or where to go. My chief puzzle is about 
the geological specimens who will have the charity to help 
me in describing their mineralogical nature? Will you be 
kind enough to write me one line by return of post, saying 
whether you are now at Cambridge? " t We give this letter 

* F. Darwin, Letters of C. Darwin, p. 137 (1892 ed.). 
t Ibid., p. 137- 
t Ibid., p. 139- 


in anticipation, for we desire to lay stress on the fact that 
though he was writing to a botanist of the standing of Hens- 
low, yet his inquiries are not about botany but about geology. 
Indeed in 1836 he speaks of being " much more inclined for 
geology than the other branches of Natural History." * So 
little did Darwin, then in his twenty-seventh year, realise the 
true bent of his genius ! 

A passage in his Autobiography is of such supreme import- 
ance in indicating the doubt whether zoological studies might 
not have been more profitable that we transcribe it : 

" During the voyage of the Beagle I had been deeply im- 
pressed by discovering in the Pampean formation great fossil 
animals covered with armour like that on the existing arma- 
dillos ; secondly, by the manner in which closely allied animals 
replace one another in proceeding southwards over the Conti- 
nent ; and thirdly, by the South American character of most 
of the productions of the Galapagos Archipelago, and more 
especially by the manner in which they differ slightly on each 
island of the group; none of the islands appearing to be very 
ancient in a geological sense. 

" It was evident that such facts as these, as well as many 
others, could only be explained on the supposition that species 
gradually become modified ; and the subject haunted me. But 
it was equally evident that neither the action of the sur- 
rounding conditions, f nor the will of the organisms J (espe- 
cially in the case of plants) could account for the innumerable 
cases in which organisms of every kind are beautifully 
adapted to their habits of life for instance, a woodpecker 
or a tree-frog to climb trees, or a seed for dispersal by hooks 
or plumes. I had always been much struck by such adapta- 
tions, and until these could be explained it seemed to me 
almost useless to endeavour to prove by indirect evidence that 
species have been modified. 

" After my return to England it appeared to me that by 
following the example of Lyell in geology, and by collecting 
all facts which bore in any way on the variation of animals 
and plants under domestication and nature, some light might 
perhaps be thrown on the whole subject. My first note-book 

* F. Darwin, Life and Letters of C. Darwin, I, p. 275. 

t This refers to Buffon's factor. 

t This refers to Lamarck's factor, and misconceives it, 


was opened in July 1837. * worked on true Baconian prin- 
ciples, and without any theory collected facts on a wholesale 
scale, more especially with respect to domesticated produc- 
tions, by printed inquiries, by conversation with skilful 
breeders and gardeners, and by extensive reading. When I 
see the list of books of all kinds which I read and abstracted, 
including whole series of Journals and Transactions, I am 
surprised at my industry. I soon perceived that selection 
was the keystone of man's success in making useful races of 
animals and plants. But how selection could be applied to 
organisms living in a state of nature remained for some 
time a mystery to me. 

" In October 1838, that is, fifteen months after I had begun 
my systematic inquiry, I happened to read for amusement 
Malthus on Population, and being well prepared to appre- 
ciate the struggle for existence which everywhere goes on 
from long-continued observation of the habits of animals and 
plants, it at once struck me that under these circumstances 
favourable variations would tend to be preserved, and un- 
favourable ones to be destroyed. The result of this would be 
the formation of a new species. Here, then, I had at last 
got a theory by which to work ; but I was so anxious to avoid 
prejudice, that I determined not for some time to write even 
the briefest sketch of it. In June 1842 I first allowed myself 
the satisfaction of writing a very brief abstract of my theory 
in pencil, in thirty-five pages; and this was enlarged during 
the summer of 1844 into one of 230 pages, which I had fairly 
copied out and still possess." * 

We have travelled on with the scientist to the stage when 
he is able to perceive a view about the facts he is industri- 
ously collecting. Now we return to the collector as he was 
on his voyage. At St. Paul's Rocks, a mass of volcanic 
peaks rising abruptly from the midst of the Atlantic, he notes 
that feather- and dirt-feeding and parasitic insects or spiders 
are the first inhabitants to take up their residence on recently 
formed oceanic islands. Was there here not light on the 
problem on how new lands were peopled? As one problem 
leads on to another, next came the question, How were some 
of the singular species he met evolved? How, in fact, was 
a new species evolved? 

* F. Darwin, Life of C. Darwin, pp. 39-40 (1892 ed.). 


On the last day of February 1832 the Beagle came to 
anchor in the harbour of Bahia, and he caught sight for the 
first time of the self-strangling luxuriance of tropical vege- 
tation. " Delight itself/' he writes in his Journal, " delight 
itself is a weak term to express the feelings of a naturalist 
who for the first time has wandered by himself in a Brazilian 
forest. The elegance of the grasses, the novelty of the para- 
sitical plants, the beauty of the flowers, the glossy green of the 
foliage, but above all the general luxuriance of the vegetation, 
filled me with admiration/' Nor was this admiration unming- 
led with penetration. As yet he had had no distinct views 
of the forces at work, but had he not had glimpses? Was 
he not vaguely feeling that there was some principle of selec- 
tion behind them ? As he began, in however faint a measure, 
to grasp the scheme of nature he experienced that keenest of 
pleasures, the pleasure felt by the man of far-reaching brain 
who can perceive all minor details fall at once into their 
proper place, as component elements in one consistent and 
harmonious whole a sympathetic pleasure akin to that with 
which a musician listens to the linked harmonies of the 
Messiah or the Creation, or an architect views the soul-satis- 
fying interiors of those glories of eastern England, Ely and 
Lincoln Cathedrals. 

At Monte Video kindred problems aroused his active 
interest. Here he was in the moist plain-land of Uruguay, 
and there was barely a tree. On the other hand, Australia, 
which had a far drier climate, possessed quantities of gum- 
trees. What part did climate play in this distribution ? What 
part did geography play in distribution? Clearly when he 
was asking questions like these, he was attaining to more than 
a glimpse of the solution of such problems. In Uruguay 
he met the tucutuco, a true rodent with the habits of a mole. 
Here was another problem. " Considering the strictly sub- 
terranean habits of the tucutuco," he writes, " the blindness, 
though so common, cannot be a very serious evil; yet it 
appears strange that any animal should possess an organ fre- 
quently subject to be injured. Lamarck would have been 
delighted with this fact, had he known it, when speculating 
(probably with more truth than usual with him) on the 
gradually acquired blindness of the Aspalax, a gnawer living 
under the ground, and of the Proteus, a reptile living in dark 


caverns filled with water; in both of which animals the eye 
is in an almost rudimentary state, and is covered by a tendi- 
nous membrane and skin. In the common mole the eye is 
extraordinarily small but perfect, though many anatomists 
doubt whether it is connected with the true optic nerve; its 
vision must certainly be imperfect, though probably useful to 
the animal when it leaves its burrow. In the tucutuco, 
which I believe never comes to the surface of the ground, 
the eye is rather larger, but often rendered blind and useless, 
though without apparently causing any inconvenience to the 
animal : no doubt Lamarck would have said that the tucutuco 
is now passing into the state of the Aspalax and Proteus/' 
There is a zeal manifested here, but not a zeal manifested 
on any true knowledge or, rather, understanding of 
Lamarck's ideas. 

For the two years after her arrival at Monte Video, the 
Beagle was employed in surveying the eastern coasts of 
South America, and here there was ample scope for the in- 
vestigating mind. He noted inter alia the absence of recent 
geological formations along the lately upheaved coast of 
South America; the strange extinction of the horse in La 
Plata ; the affinities of the extinct and recent species ; the effect 
of minute individual peculiarities in preserving life under 
special circumstances; the influence of insects and blood- 
sucking bats in determining the existence of the larger 
naturalised mammals in parts of Brazil and the Argentine 
Republic, the curious relationship between the gigantic fossil 
armour-plated animals and the existing armadillo and be- 
tween the huge megatherium and the modern sloth, and the 
curious instincts of the cuckoo-like molothrus, of the owl of 
the Pampas, and of the American ostrich. 

Though much of the keenness of Darwin ran to geology, 
still, it is evident that biology was never long out of his ken.* 
If he observes a certain singular group of South American 
birds, we hear that " this small family is one of those which, 
though from its varied relations to other families, although 
at present offering only difficulties to the systematic naturalist, 
ultimately may assist in revealing the grand scheme, common 
to the present and past ages, on which organised beings have 
been created." In 1670 Wood had found the agouti abun- 
* His last book on The Earthworm was in a sense geological. 


dant as far south as Port St. Julian, though Darwin could 
not find it there in his time. Here is material for another 
question, " What cause can have altered, in a wide, un- 
inhabited, and rarely visited country, the range of an animal 
like this? " He felt the force of the analogies between the 
fossil armour-plated animals and the armadillo, between the 
megatherium and the sloth, between the colossal ant-eaters 
and their degenerate descendants, between the extinct camel- 
like macrauchenia and the modern guanco, as well as those 
between the fossil and the living species of South American 
rodents. This moved him to write : " This wonderful rela- 
tionship in the same continent between the dead and the 
living will, I do not doubt, hereafter throw more light on 
the appearance of organic beings on our earth, and their dis- 
appearance from it, than any other class of facts. " 

The Journal of the " Beagle " shows up many specimens 
as well as geological ones. Of course we must bear in mind 
that on his return home, he rewrote it after he perused for 
the first time the Essay on the Principle of Population which 
the Rev. Thomas Robert Malthus (1766 1834) had written 
in 1798. For almost fifty years this epoch-making essay had 
been in the hands of the public before one of its most serious 
implicit prepositions had been revealed to the minds of both 
Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, for it is an astonishing 
fact that Malthus's book set both naturalists on the track of 
the principle of natural selection. Under the account of 
events observed in the year 1834 Darwin records: "We do 
not steadily bear in mind how profoundly ignorant we are of 
the conditions of existence of every animal ; nor do we always 
remember that some check is constantly preventing the too 
rapid increase of every organised being left in a state of 
nature. The supply of food, on an average, remains con- 
stant; yet the tendency of every animal to increase by 
propagation is geometrical, and its surprising effects have no- 
where been more astonishingly shown than in the case of the 
European animals run wild during the last few centuries in 
America. Every animal in a state of nature regularly 
breeds; yet in a species long established any great increase 
in numbers is obviously impossible, and must be checked by 

some means." 

There are coincidences in the reading of great men, but is 



there anything in its long arm to equal the parallelisms of 
Darwin and Wallace? It is not altogether surprising that 
both should have read Chambers's Vestiges of the Natural 
History of Creation (1844) or Lyell's Principles of Geology 
(1830-33). Nor is it extremely surprising that they both 
should have read Humboldt's Personal Narrative (1814-18). 
But surely it is most amazing that both should have read 
Malthus's Essay on the Principle of Population, a book pub- 
lished so far back as the year 1798. How out of the common 
it is appears from the following quotations : 


" In October 1838, that is, 
fifteen months after I had 
begun my systematic inquiry, 
I happened to read for my 
amusement, Malthns on Pop- 
ulation, and being well pre- 
pared to appreciate the 
struggle for existence which 
everywhere goes on from 
long-continued observations 
of the habits of animals and 
plants, it at once struck me 
that under these circum- 
stances favourable variations 
would tend to be preserved, 
and unfavourable ones to be 
destroyed. The result of this 
would be the formation of 
new species. Here, then, I 
had at last got a theory by 
which to work ; but I was so 
anxious to avoid prejudice 
that I determined not for 
some time to write even the 
briefest sketch of it. In 
June 1842 I first allowed 
myself the satisfaction of 
writing a very brief abstract 


" In February 1858 I was 
suffering from a rather severe 
attack of intermittent fever 
at Ternate, in the Moluccas ; 
and one day, while lying on 
my bed during the cold fit, 
wrapped in blankets, though 
the thermometer was at 88 
Fahr., the problem presented 
itself to me, and something 
led me to think of ' the posi- 
tive checks ' described by 
Malthus in his Essay on 
Population, a work I had read 
several years before, and 
which had made a deep and 
permanent impression on my 
mind. These checks war, 
disease, famine, and the like 
must, it occurred to me, 
act on animals as well as man. 
Then I thought of the enor- 
mously rapid multiplication 
of animals, causing these 
checks to be much more 
effective in them than in the 
case of man; and while pon- 
dering vaguely on this fact 


of my theory in pencil, in there suddenly flashed upon 
thirty-five pages, and this me the idea of the survival 
was enlarged during the sum- of the fittest that the indi- 
mer of 1844 into one of 230 viduals removed by these 
pages. " * checks must be on the whole 

inferior to those that sur- 
vived. In the two hours 
that elapsed before my ague 
fit was over, I had thought 
out almost the whole of the 
theory; and the same even- 
ing I sketched the draft of my 
paper, and in the two suc- 
ceeding evenings wrote it out 
in full, and sent it by the next 
post to Mr. Darwin." f 

As the Rev. Thomas Malthus is at least the grandfather 
of the evolution theory, it is well worth while to see what Jie 
actually taught. J He left a book which everyone abuses 
and nobody reads, a book that attempted to prick the bubble 
of an earthly paradise set before thoughtless folks by Thomas 
Godwin in his Political Justice. Godwin imagined a society 
where all were equally comfortable and equal in fact all round. 
Assuming that it could be established and Malthus plainly 
deemed this an unwarranted assumption it would inevitably 
crash through the growth of population. Malthus's proof 
is short and sharp. Population, when unchecked, increases 
in geometrical ratio, whereas subsistence increases only in 
arithmetical. Malthus points out, with remorseless logic, 
that " the race of plants and animals shrinks under this great 
restrictive law, and the race of man cannot by any efforts of 
reason escape from it. Among plants and animals its effects 
are waste of seed, sickness, and premature death, among men 
misery and vice." In old countries like Europe population is 
constantly checked by want of room and want of food, by 

* F. Darwin, Life of C. Darwin, p. 40 (1892 ed.). 

t A. R. Wallace, My Life, I, p. 232. 

j E. Hacckel, History of Creation, chap. vi. Haeckel dwells at 
length on the connection of Darwin with Malthus. Cf. The Journal of 
the Llnnean Society, III, p. ST. 

T. R. Malthus, Essay, p. 14 (ist ed.). 


vice and misery, and by the fear of vice and misery. In 
new countries like America there is room and there is food, 
but the price of the latter is toil, and the toil of the women, 
for example, will interfere with the rearing of the children. 
In old Europe people double their numbers once a century. 
In new America they perform the same feat, despite toil and 
the difficulty of rearing children, once in twenty-five years. 
Obviously in the happy society of Godwin, 

Where all are proper and well-behaved, 
And all are free from sorrow and pain, 

the rate of increase will be infinitely faster than doubling the 
population once in twenty-five years.* Godwin and the 
whole French school, like the Socialists of our own day, are 
entirely wrong in attributing all inequality to human institu- 
tions. The passion of man and woman to reproduce them- 
selves is the root cause of the whole difficulty,! and always 
will be until, at least, we all become as wise as the eugenists 
want us to be. " Where goods are increased, they are in- 
creased that eat them/' The " struggle for existence " 
Malthus uses this very phrase is a present fact, as it has 
been a past fact, and will be a future one. Nothing is gained 
by rhetorical references to the wideness of the world and the 
possibilities of the ages. People increase in numbers up to 
the limit of food, and a " great restrictive law " prevents 
them, as it prevents all other animals, from multiplying 
beyond that limit. J 

In a herd of animals the units are simply the fittest who 
have survived in the struggle for existence. The principle 
of population is in the foreground there; there is no check 
to it but famine, disease, and death, the very checks on which 
Malthus was the first to lay emphasis. We can therefore 
understand how the study of the Essay on Population led 
Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace to explain the 
origin of species by a generalisation which Malthus had 
known and named, though he did not pursue it beyond man. 
So much indeed is Sir Charles Lyell impressed by these con- 
siderations that he even denied the originality of Darwin 

* T. R. Malthus, Essay, pp. 20, 173, etc. (7th eel), 
t Ibid., pp. 17, 47-8 (ist ed.). 
t Ibid., pp. 15, 1 6 (ist ed.). 


and Wallace.* Darwinism is Malthusianism on the largest 
scale : it is the application of the problem of population, ani- 
mal and vegetable. 

In the autumn of 1835 the Beagle made her way to the 
small and unimportant Galapagos Archipelago. Small and 
unimportant as these little equatorial islands are from 
the geographical and commercial point of view, they are any- 
thing but this from the biological. They form a group of 
tiny volcanic islets, never joined to any continent and never 
joined to one another, yet each of them possesses its own 
special zoological features. They contain no frogs and no 
mammal save mice brought to them likely by a passing ship. 
The only insects are beetles, which possess peculiar facilities 
for transportation in the egg or grub across salt water upon 
floating logs. There are a few snails and two kinds of 
snake, one tortoise, and four lizards. There is a genus of a 
gigantic and ugly lizard, the amblyrhyncus, unknown else- 
where, but here assuming the forms of two species, the one 
marine and the other terrestrial. On the other hand there 
are no less than at least fifty-five distinct species of native 
birds. Besides, the differences of fauna and flora between 
the various islands force one to think that each form must 
necessarily have been developed not merely for the group, but 
for the special island which it actually inhabits. Darwin's 
brain reeled as he contemplated the amount of creative force 
employed, and it also reeled as he thought of " its diverse, 
yet analogous, action on points so near to each other/' The 
fauna and flora of the islands are different from one another, 
and they are also different from that of Ecuador, the nearest 
mainland. The law cares nothing for de minimis: Darwin 
cared everything for de minimis. 

Darwin perceives that once again he is met by another 
question set by Nature. What is the key to the riddle of 
organic existence? It seems almost in his hand. He writes 
that " most of the organic productions are aboriginal crea- 
tions, found nowhere else ; there is even a difference between 
the inhabitants of the different islands : yet all show a marked 
relationship with those of America, though separated from 
that continent by an open space of ocean, between 500 and 

* Origin of Species, ch. iii, p. 50. Cf. Sir C. Lyell, Antiquity of Man, 
ch. xxi, p. 456. 


600 miles in width. . . . Considering the small size of these 
islands, we feel the more astonished at the number of their 
aboriginal beings, and at their confined range. Seeing every 
height crowned with its crater, and the boundaries of most 
of the lava-streams still distinct, we are led to believe that 
within a period geologically recent the unbroken sea was 
here spread out. Hence, both in space and time we seem to 
be brought somewhat nearer to that great fact that mystery 
of mysteries the first appearance of new beings on this 

In New Zealand he met with fauna and flora of the most 
amazing meagreness and poverty of species. In the woods 
he noted very few big birds, and he remarks with astonish- 
ment that so large an island the same size as Great Britain 
should not possess a single living indigenous mammal, save 
a solitary rat of doubtful origin. It is the most insular 
extensive mass of land in the whole world, constituting a 
wonderful contrast with the Galapagos Archipelago. 

For nearly five years the young geologist had been travel- 
ling. Occasionally we meet with the young biologist, but 
he came home a geologist. As Lamarck altered the course 
of his studies, so Darwin altered the course of his. It may 
very well have been that Lyell had laid down principles that 
would go towards the solution of many geological problems. 
Where, on the other hand, were the principles of the biolo- 
gists? Collection and observation had given him one-half 
the subject-matter of the Origin of Species. It was reserved 
for reflection and Malthus to give him the missing half. As 
naturalist to the Beagle he had been obliged to consider all 
sorts of problems as well as the geological ones that absorbed 
so much of his attention. Oceanic phenomena, the forma- 
tion of coral islands and of icebergs, the transport of boul- 
ders, volcanic phenomena, the height of the snow-line, the 
climate of the Antarctic islands, the effects of slavery, the 
appearance of the Patagonian and other races a thousand 
and one problems like these compelled the geologist to con- 
sider many matters outside the range of the narrow specialist. 
For the time being, at any rate, Darwin acted on the Baconian 
maxim of taking the whole world of science for his special 
problem. As he appreciated the labours of Sedgwick and 
Henslow on his behalf, so he appreciated those of Captain 


FitzRoy, to whom he wrote after his return and settlement 
in London : " However others may look back to the Beagle's 
voyage, now that the small disagreeable parts are well-nigh 
forgotten, I think it far the most fortunate circumstance in 
my life that the chance afforded by your offer of taking a 
naturalist fell on me. I often have the most vivid and 
delightful pictures of what I saw on board the Beagle pass 
before my eyes. These recollections, and what I learnt on 
Natural History, I would not exchange for twice ten thou- 
sand a year." * 

When he landed in England on his return from the five 
happy years spent on board the Beagle, he was nearly twenty- 
eight. When he published the first edition of the Origin of 
Species he was over fifty. The intervening years were 
mainly devoted to seeing where his material led him, and 
when he was sure of this direction he spent his time in 
proving to the satisfaction of all its truth. Like Lyell, 
Darwin was a man of independent means, and thus was 
spared the necessity of frittering away his intellectual powers 
in earning his living. 

On board the Beagle he had believed in the permanence 
of species, though vague doubts occasionally flitted across 
his mind. On March 7, 1837, he took lodgings in London, 
and remained there for nearly two years,^ until he married 
his cousin, Emma Wedgwood. During those two years 
he finished his Journal of his travels, read several papers 
before the Geological Society, began preparing the manu- 
script for his Geological Observations, and arranged 
for the publication of the Zoology of the Voyage of 
the "Beagle." This affords clues to the position 
geology occupied in his thoughts. In July he opened 
his first note-book for facts in relation to his thoughts 
on the origin of species. The character of South Ameri- 
can fossils and the many species on the Galapagos 
Archipelago had seriously struck him. The brilliant hypo- 
theses of his grandfather, Erasmus, were to be replaced by 
twenty-two years of drudgery with fact after fact. The 
hard, dry, scientific mind dislikes speculation, and is im- 
pressed by masses of facts, and these Darwin prepared to 
gather and to go on gathering for a generation if need be. 

* F. Darwin, Life of C. Darwin, p. 139 (1892 ed.). 


In after-days men compared him with Newton, and the 
comparison is a just one.* Newton discovered the law of 
gravitation and Darwin the law of natural selection. Newton 
also laid the foundations of dynamics and natural philosophy 
and Darwin introduced a conception of nature that viewed 
it as a scene of ceaseless conflict and ceaseless development. f 
If we like, we can continue the parallel by suggesting that 
as Newton was condemned by his contemporaries on the basis 
of the philosophy of Bacon, so Darwin suffered condemnation 
on the basis of the philosophy of Bacon and Newton. For 
the moment the item in the parallel that concerns us most is 
the enormous energy and accuracy both men gave to their 
main conception. 

In a manuscript quoted in the preface to A Catalogue of 
the Newton MSS., Portsmouth Collection, written probably 
about 1716, Newton writes $ : " In the beginning of the year 
1665 I found the method for approximating series and the 
rule for reducing any dignity [power] of any binomial to 
such a series [i.e. the binomial theorem]. The same year in 
May I found the method of tangents of Gregory and Slusius, 
and in November had the direct method of Fluxions [i.e. 
the elements of the differential calculus], and the next year 
in January had the Theory of Colours, and in May following 
I had entrance into the inverse method of Fluxions [i.e. 
integral calculus], and in the same year I began to think of 
gravity extending to the orb of the Moon . . . and having 
thereby compared the force requisite to keep the Moon in 
her orb with the force of gravity at the surface of the earth, 
and found them to answer pretty nearly. All this was in the 
two years of 1665 an d 1666, for in those years I was in the 
prime of my age for invention, and minded Mathematics and 
Philosophy more than at any time since." From 1666 to 
1686 the problem of gravitation lay at the back of the mind 
of Newton, and from 1836 to 1859 the problem of the origin 
of species lay at the back of the mind of Darwin. The 

* Contrast A. Wigand, Der Darwinismus und die Naturforschung New- 
ton's und Cuvier's, III, p. 14. 

f A. R. Wallace, Darwinism, p. 9. Cf. E. Du Bois Reymond, Reden, 
I, p. 216. 

t Cf. Appendix to Rigaud, Essay on the Principia, pp. 20, 23; Letter 
to Leibniz, Oct. 24, 1676, No. LV in the Commercium Epistolicum: 
Pemberton, Preface to A Viciv of Sir Isaac Newton's Philosophy, 1728, 


perseverance of the two men is at least as remarkable as 
their modesty. Another experiment enables us to grasp in 
some measure the patient and painstaking plan of inquiry 
Darwin pursued. In order to test the reality of earthworm 
castings, in 1842 he began to spread broken chalk over a 
field in Down, his Kentish home, in which in 1871 a trench 
was dug to test the results. How could any matter-of-fact 
scientist resist the man who was capable of waiting twenty- 
nine years in order to ascertain the outcome of a single 
experiment ? 

Darwin used to say that no one could be a good observer 
unless he was an active theoriser, a circumstance that explains 
the failures as well as the successes of scientists. " I am 
a firm believer," as he stated, " that without speculation there 
is no good and original observation." * As the facts accumu- 
lated under his never-ceasing industry, Darwin in 1838 read 
his Malthus, and the Essay on the Principle of Population 
performed not the least of its services to mankind when it 
enabled Darwin to render the principles Malthus applied to 
man applicable to plants and animals as well. Without this 
Essay we might never have had the Origin of Species in 1859. 
The caution and the self-criticism of Darwin demanded the 
clearest evidence, rejecting the most welcome support if it be 
not flawless. With accuracy of statement went his sincerity 
of opinion. Yet all can seek truth and show sincerity without 
necessarily attaining correctness ; for that, a power of logical 
reasoning, though no virtue, is a most necessary talent; it 
was a faculty that Darwin and his co-discoverer, Wallace, 
valued highly in themselves. Love of one's subject comes 
of course first, and no one can doubt the love of Darwin for 
geology and biology. Only because love must be first do we 
place truth second. Perhaps indeed truth is one facet of 
love; for love's self-effacement leads to that objective treat- 
ment, freed from sentiment and prejudice, which forms the 
very foundation of science. First of the virtues, for the 
man of science as for all men else, is love. Love of his 
fellow-creatures, so beautifully illustrated in the story of 
Pasteur and the first child he saved from hydrophobia, has 
led many an investigator through suffering and privation, 
even to his death. But without a burning love of his subject, 
* F. Darwin, Life and Letters of C. Darwin, II, p. 95. 


be it the life of men, or of animals, or of plants, or of stones, 
no man of science has achieved greatness, the greatness of a 
Jenner and a Simpson, the greatness of a Lyell and a Helm- 
holtz. For the true lover the object of his affection is all, 
he himself is nothing: self -suppression is the hall-mark of 
the great discoverer. 

There are memorials to Newton and to Darwin in their 
own colleges, Trinity and Christ's It is appropriate that a 
plaque modelled by T. Woolner, made by Josiah Wedgwood 
& Sons, is on Darwin's rooms in Christ's College. A sin- 
gularly beautiful statue of Newton by Roubiliac was given 
to Trinity College by the Master, Dr. Robert Smith, in 1750, 
and is now in the ante-chapel. Wordsworth, in his " Pre- 
lude " (bk. Ill), detected in Newton's "silent face," as 
depicted in this work of art, 

The marble index of a mind for ever 

Voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone. 

The scientist in the front rank requires the power of such a 
voyage every whit as real as that in the Beagle. He must be 
able to live a lonely life with his idea, content to see men 
ignore it when it is put before them, content to believe with 
Kepler that if God can wait six thousand years for one to 
contemplate His works, the discoverer too can wait. Loneli- 
ness is the fate of genius. It is noteworthy that the pro- 
foundest book St. Paul wrote, the Epistle to the Ephesians, 
and the greatest work of uninspired religious genius, the 
Pilgrim's Progress, were written in the seclusion of a prison. 
Mohammed meditated his message on the mount above 
Mecca, Dante pondered his poem in the sylvan solitudes of 
Fonte Avellana, and Cervantes wrote the saddest book in the 
world in the seclusion of a prison. All men who have a mes- 
sage for their fellows come to realise the justice of the remark 
Dr. Cppleston addressed to Newman, once meeting him tak- 
ing his solitary walk, " Nunquam minus solus quam cum 

The solitary is by no means a figure confined to religion : 
he is the type of all whose labours endure. Love of one's 
subject, the desire of truth, the power to lead a lonely life 
these are qualities of genius. But let us not forget hope 
the hope that tramples on failure, " is baffled to fight better/' 


and through mists of doubt presses forward to the goal. 
Hope is the virtue of youth; but the truly great man pos- 
sesses perpetual youth, in mind if not in body : ever ready for 
new ideas, ever looking at the heights. Do we always realise 
that practically all Darwin's volumes on evolution were pub- 
lished after he was fifty? " The substance of things hoped 
for " is faith, and this too is a necessary virtue of the man 
of science. Faith assures him that what he is doing is 
worth while ; faith gives him that singleness of purpose with- 
out which no great task was ever accomplished ; faith endows 
him with that patience and industry which Darwin claimed 
as his chief qualities. On faith in the unity and meaning of 
creation depends that breadth of view without which few men 
make discoveries of fundamental importance; and surely it is 
" the evidence of things not seen " which kindles in the 
natural philosopher the fire of imagination that " Phan- 
tasie " which the great physiologist Johannes Miiller 
acknowledged to be " ein unentbehrliches Gut." 

One eminent quality of a man in authority in the Church 
is the power of suffering fools gladly, and it is also an emi- 
nent quality of a man in authority in the world of science. 
In a super-eminent degree Darwin possessed this quality. 
In 1844 Robert Chambers (1802 1871) published anony- 
mously his Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation. It 
was vivid, it was graphic, and it gave the world a glimpse of a 
theory of development. How prepared the public was for 
such a theory is witnessed by the fact that in nine years it 
leaped to no less than ten successive editions. Two years 
sufficed for Chambers, and we cannot wonder that Darwin 
thought it showed " a great want of scientific caution. " 
Since 1838 he had been in possession of his main conception, 
and though there were adumbrations of it in Chambers's book 
he kept silence, and this was not the least notable of his 
triumphs. It was a triumph, however, accompanied with a 
warning that he might be forestalled. 

Preoccupied as he was with his leading idea, he was far 
from idle in other directions. A second edition of his 
Journal of Researches into the Natural History and Geology 
of the Countries visited during the Voyage of H.MS. 
" Beagle " appeared in 1845. His Zoology of the Voyage of 
PI. MS. (f Beagle " appeared in 1840; his Structure and Dis- 


tribution of Coral Reefs in 1842; his Geological Observa- 
tions on South America in 1846; his Monograph of the Fos- 
sil Lepapidce or Pedunculated Cirripedes of Great Britain in 
1851 ; his Monograph of the Tubeless Cirripedia, with figures 
of all the Species, in 1851; his Monograph of the Fossil 
Balanidce and Verrucidcz of Great Britain in 1854. No one 
could doubt that the sometime Secretary of the Geological 
Society, who had eight such tomes to his credit, was a man 
to be reckoned with. The average F.R.S. was sure to be 
impressed by such masterly marshalling of facts. 

Darwin's Autobiography contains a vivid history of the 
process by which he was able to revivify " the oldest of all 
the philosophies that of evolution." * In 1838, thanks to 
Mai thus, he had grasped the idea of natural selection. In 
1842 he first allowed himself to write out his progress in 
thirty- five pages. In 1844 ^ e enlarged this sketch into one of 
230 pages. Struggle, selection, sexual selection, and variation 
all were in his mind, though he attached much more weight 
to the influence of external conditions and to the inheritance 
of acquired habits than he did later. Must man be included 
with other animals in his quest for the origin of species? 
Yes. So far back as 1837 or 1838 he collected facts on this 
point, and they convinced him of the " Descent of Man " 
from an animal, though the book with this title was not 
published till 1871. Early in 1859, on Lyell's advice, he 
began to write out his views on the origin of species on a 
scale three or four times as extensive as he did in 1856. By 
1856 he had sent Hooker his manuscript. Swinging away 
from any sympathy with the theories of Buff on and Lamarck, 
he reached an extreme position on the work of natural 
selection. In the July of that year he gave a brief sketch 
of his theory in a letter to Asa Gray, the American naturalist, 
mentioning the cardinal conceptions of the Origin of Species. 
The formation of a species he thought almost wholly due to 
the selection of " chance " variations. Neither the " blind 
fortuity " of Empedocles nor the " progressive principle " of 
Aristotle is in his mind. What he means by " chance " 
variations is that they occur under unknown laws. 

A fortunate accident forced the pace of the slowly-working 
mind of the investigator. In 1858 A. R. Wallace had sud- 
* F. Darwin, Life of C. Darwin, p. 169 (1892 ed.). 


denly reached a theory similar to Darwin's, and sent him a 
paper, written in February, " On the Tendency of Varieties 
to depart indefinitely from the Original Type/' * Darwin's 
feelings are plain in what he writes : " If Wallace had my 
MS. sketch written out in 1842 he could not have made a 
better short abstract of it. Even his terms stand now as 
heads of my chapters. Please return me the MS., which he 
does not say he wishes me to publish, but I shall, of course, 
at once write and offer to send it to any journal. So all my 
originality, whatever it may amount to, will be smashed, 
though my book, if ever it will have any value, will not be 
deteriorated; as all the labour consists in the application of 
the theory." f He then doubted what course he ought to 
pursue. Urged by his friends to publish an abstract of his 
own views, lie wrote to Lyell : " Wallace might say, ' You 
did not intend publishing an abstract of your views till you 
received my communication. Is it fair to take advantage of 
my having freely, though unasked, communicated to you my 
ideas, and thus prevent me forestalling you ? ' The advan- 
tage which I should take being that I am induced to publish 
from privately knowing that Wallace was in the field. It 
seems hard on me that I should thus be compelled to lose my 
priority of many years' standing, but I cannot feel sure that 
this alters the justice of the case. First impressions are 
generally right, and I at first thought it would be dishonour- 
able in me now to publish." 

The feelings of this sensitive soul were left to the judg- 
ment of his friends Lyell and Hooker, the latter of whom 
had read the sketch of 1844. He suggested, as an un- 
doubtedly more equitable course than Darwin's first impulse 
to publish Wallace's essay without note or comment of his 
own, that extracts from the manuscript of 1844 and from 
the letter of Dr. Asa Gray should be communicated to the 
Linnean Society along with Wallace's paper. This was the 
fairest course, and it was the course pursued. Accordingly 
the two papers were read together on the memorable evening 
of July i, 1858, and published under the title On the Ten- 
dency of Species to form Varieties; and on the Perpetuation 
of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection. 

* F. Darwin, Life of C. Danvin, p. 189. 

t F. Darwin, Life and Letters of C. Darwin, II, p. 116, 


It is a satisfaction to be able to record that Wallace was as 
generous-minded as his co-discoverer. As when Joule pro- 
claimed his views, there was not the semblance 
of a discussion.* Darwin wrote in his Autobiography: 
" Our joint productions excited very little attention, 
and the only published notice of them which I can 
remember was by Professor Haughton of Dublin, whose 
verdict was that all that was new in them was false, and what 
was true was old. This shows how necessary it is that any 
new view should be explained at considerable length in order 
to arouse public attention." f Darwin worked for thirteen 
months more, and in November 1859 a ^ last appeared his 
book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selec- 
tion, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle 
for Life. 

The world of science, on its publication, began to undergo 
a profound transformation that has affected every depart- 
ment of it. The situation reminds one of the campanile of 
St. Mark's at Venice in July 1902. The guardian of the 
tower wanted a few inches more elbow room in his little 
kitchen and took away a sort of lintel in order to enlarge the 
passage. Next day there was a crack in the wall above, and 
the week after the whole campanile sat down upon itself. 
Nothing was changed; the same bricks and mortar were 
there; only the situation was different. Darwin's magnum 
opus rendered the whole scientific situation wholly different. 
The idea of natural selection had been conceived by Wells in 
1813, by Patrick Matthew in 1831, and by Wallace in 1858. 
That second-rate philosopher, Herbert Spencer, came close to 
it in 1852. It is remarkable that Wells and Spencer, as well 
as Wallace, based their ideas on the Malthusian principle. 
There is infinite variability in wild and domestic animals. 
There appears indeed to be hardly any limit to the almost 
infinite plasticity and modifiability of domestic animals. " It 
would seem," said a great sheep-breeder, speaking of sheep, 
" as if farmers had chalked out upon a wall a form perfect 
in itself, and then proceeded to give it existence." 

Granting individual variability, then, how do species arise 

* F. Darwin, Life of C. Darwin, p. 186 (1892 ed.). 
t Ibid., p. 41. 


in nature ? And how are all the exquisite adaptations of part 
to whole, and of whole to environment, gradually initiated, 
improved, and perfected? 

Here the book of Malthus comes to our assistance. For it 
teaches that here and now the world is over-populated. It 
is not going to be over-populated, but is actually at this 
moment over-populated. Species perpetually outruns sub- 
sistence. Linnaeus reckoned that if an annual plant had two 
seeds, each of which produced two seedlings in the succeeding 
season, and so on continually, in twenty years their progeny 
would amount to a million plants. The roe of a cod contains 
nearly ten million eggs. If each of these produced a young 
fish which arrived at maturity, the whole sea must imme- 
diately become a solid mass of codfish. There is, then, a 
struggle for existence between members of the same species 
not between members of different species and this 
struggle is never ending. This struggle is between cod and 
cod, tiger and tiger, snake and snake. Homo homini lupus, 
so runs the old proverb which Hobbes applied to his own 
purpose. Lupus lupo lupus, so runs the proverb Darwin 
might have coined for his purpose. 

The three men Darwin looked to for judgment on his work 
were Lyell, Hooker, and Huxley, and they all signified their 
agreement with it.* That is, from the angle of geology, 
botany, and zoology, three men of mark were on the side of 
the hypothesis launched upon the scientific world. All of 
them had their reservations, but they cordially accepted the 
main idea. Hooker did not disguise his opinion that he 
thought it had been pressed too far,f holding that Darwin 
had ignored the view of the mutability of species held by 
G. Saint-Hilaire and Lamarck.J Huxley pointed out, for in- 
stance, that the logical foundation of the Origin was insecure 
so long as experiments in selective breeding had not produced 
varieties which were more or less infertile, and he thought 
that that insecurity remains. In his Romanes lecture, given 
in 1892, Huxley held that natural selection failed to explain 
the origin of our moral and ethical nature. Lyell shrank 

* F. Darwin, Life of C. Darwin, pp. 214, 235 (1892 ed.). 
f L. Huxley, Life and Letters of Sir 7. D. Hooker, I, p. 512. 
J F. Darwin, Life of C. Darwin, pp. 207, 254, 256. 
L, Huxley, Life and Letters of T. H. Huxley, I, p. 170. 


from accepting the Darwinian teaching, for he foresaw its 
inevitable extension to the descent of man, and that was 
repugnant to his feelings. Ultimately, he ceased to shrink, 
and Darwin thought this one of the noblest acts he knew. For 
Lyell " to have maintained in the position of a master, one 
side of the question for thirty years, and then deliberately 
give it up, is a fact to which I * much doubt whether the 
records of science offer a parallel."! 

Sir Richard Owen (1804 1892) was a naturalist who 
occupied such a foremost position in science that he has been 
called the British Cuvier, and he could not see his way to 
accept the old-new view. Darwin's special doctrine of 
natural selection he never appreciated. He attacked it with 
acerbity in an anonymous article in the Edinburgh Review for 
April i86o.{ Darwin believed him to have inspired the 
hostile notice given to this book by Samuel Wilber force, 
Bishop of Oxford, in the Quarterly Review of the same 
date. There is also reason to think that Owen proved the 
source of inspiration of the speech made by Wilber force at 
the meeting of the British Association at Oxford in 1860. 
That is, what has long been believed to have been an epis- 
copal attack was in fact an attack by a scientist with a 
first-class reputation. Wilberforce had taken a first-class in 
mathematics, and when Owen assured him that the new 
theory was an untrue theory he believed his informant. His 
ignorance was pardonable if he had not ventured to speak. 
Not only was he foolish enough to speak, but he was more 
foolish to sneer. Turning to his antagonist, Huxley, with 
smiling insolence, he begged to know, Was it through his 
grandfather or his grandmother that he claimed his descent 
from a monkey? No wonder Huxley exclaimed to Sir 
Benjamin Brodie, who was sitting beside him, " The Lord 
hath delivered him into mine hands ! " With an effectively 
quiet manner, he retorted that he was not ashamed to have a 
monkey for his ancestor ; but that he would be ashamed to be 
connected with a man who used great gifts to obscure the 
truth. " Close to them stood one of the few men among the 

* Darwin. 

t F. Darwin, Life of C. Darwin, pp. 212, 260 (1892 ed.). Cf. Horner, 
Life of Sir C. Lyell, II, p. 384. 

t On Owen's attitude, cf. R. Owen, Life of Professor Owen, 
II, p. 91. 


audience already in Holy Orders, who joined in and indeed 
led the cheers for the Darwinians."* An eye-witness 
adds, " I was much struck with the fair and unprejudiced way 
the black coats and white cravats of Oxford discussed the 
question, and the frankness with which they offered their 
congratulations to the winners in the combat." f The feeling 
of the audience was very hostile to the Bishop, and Simpson, 
who had been most anti-Darwinian, declared that if that was 
all that could be said in favour of the old idea, he was a con- 
vert. The President of the section, Henslow, adjourned 
the discussion until the following Monday, but it was then 
thought by the leaders on both sides that it had better be 
dropped, and so the matter rested. On the Sunday, at the 
University Church, Frederick Temple, the future Archbishop 
of Canterbury, treated his audience to a sermon on Dar- 
winism, in which he espoused Darwin's ideas very fully. $ 
Huxley, when describing the mammalian heart, used to 
remark on the difficulty of distinguishing the tricuspid valve, 
on the right side, from the bicuspid valve, on the left, which 
resembles a bishop's mitre. His rule was that as a bishop 
is never known to be on the right, the mitral valve is on the 
left. In 1860, at any rate, a bishop-to-be was on the right! 
The 1860 meeting of the British Association has attained 
a high degree of notoriety. There was another meeting of 
this Association at Oxford in 1894 which is sometimes for- 
gotten^ The President then was Lord Salisbury, who pro- 
ceeded to attack, in the presence of Huxley, conceptions of 
the evolution theory. With delicate irony he spoke of the 
" comforting word, evolution," passing to Weismannism. 
Lord Salisbury quoted Lord Kelvin against Darwin, imply- 
ing that the diametrically opposed views so frequently ex- 
pressed nowadays threw the whole process of evolution in 
doubt. This of course irritated Huxley, who naturally 
considered Lord Kelvin a non-expert witness on a biological 
question. When the President had finished his address, Lord 
Kelvin proposed a vote of thanks, and he did so with genuine 
conviction. For he saw grave difficulties from a physico- 

* L. Huxley, Life and Letters of T. H. Huxley, I, p. 182 ; F. Darwin, 
Life of C. Darwin, p. 236 ff. (1892 ed.). 
f F. Darwin, Life of C. Darwin, p. 241 (1892 ed.). 
$ A. F. R. Wollaston, Life of A. Newton, p. 118. 
J. Mavor, My Windows on the Street of the World, I, p. 320. 


mathematical point of view in reconciling the Darwinian 
hypothesis of evolution in biology with the physical data he 
had in his mind. Huxley contented himself with a formal 
speech. The triumph of 1860 was not destined to be re- 
peated, for Lamarckianism inter alia was at last coming into 
its own. If the shade of Sir Richard Owen or of Samuel 
Wilber force could have been present, how he would have 
chuckled at the retribution falling on their former antagonist ! 
Huxley had the rare good fortune to review the Origin of 
Species for The Times, and a notice in the leading newspaper 
of 1860 rendered incalculable service to the new contribution 
to thought. Still, writing in 1887, he writes : " There is not 
the slightest doubt that, if a General Council of the Church 
scientific had been held at that time, we should have been 
condemned by an overwhelming majority/' * Not a few 
clergymen naturally followed the lead given them by a Bishop, 
but it occasions surprise to find that, in the opinion of a com- 
petent judge, the scientists would also have condemned Dar- 
win. The severe criticism passed by the Quarterly Review 
of July 1860 rendered a notable disservice to the reception 
of the evolution theory. In the Life and Letters of Charles 
Darwin there is a letter written by Hooker which we quote : 
" Huxley has sent me the proof of his contribution to the 
Life.^ I do not think it too severe. The Quarterly then 
held the highest place amongst the first-class Reviews and 
was most bound to be fair and judicious, but proved unjust 
and malicious and ignorant. It went indefinitely beyond 
' severity ' and into scurrility, and for all Huxley says he cites 
abundant proof. It is not for us, who repeat ad nauseam 
our contempt for the persecutors of Galileo and the sneerers 
of Franklin, to conceal the fact that our own great dis- 
coverers met the same fate at the hands of the highest in 
the land of Literature and Science, as represented by its 
most exalted organ, the Q.R"$ Poulett Scrope in two 

* J. W. Clark and A. C. Seward, Order of the Proceedings at the 
Darwin Celebration held at Cambridge, June 22-24, 1909, p. 20. 

f Of Darwin. 

j L. Huxley, Life and Letters of Sir J. D. Hooker, II, p. 300; F. 
Darwin, Letters of C. Darwin, p. 242 (1892 ed.). Cf. Ibid., p. 221. 
Hooker wrote to Darwin in 1859, " I saw a highly flattering notice [of 
the Origin} in the English Churchman, short and not at all entering into 
discussion, but praising you and your book, and talking patronisingly 
of the doctrine ! " 


luminous articles in the Quarterly Review did for Lyell 
what Huxley accomplished for Darwin in his famous 
review in The Times* Sir Richard Owen controlled 
this great Review in 1860, and this created a world of 

It is one of the ironies of the situation that in their views 
Darwin and Wallace did not continue to see eye to eye. The 
longer Wallace worked practically, the more he perceived 
difficulties in the way. In his World of Life he states three 
of the most formidable of these. The first is that the slight 
beginnings of new organs would be useless, and could not 
therefore be preserved and increased by natural selection to 
which it is answered that the usual method of evolution is to 
make apparent novelties by the transformation or specialisa- 
tion of old-established structures. The second difficulty is 
that new adaptations imply a number of concurrent variations 
to which it is answered that time is long and variability 
great, and that coincident variations are demonstrably numer- 
ous in connection with both difficulties. Professors Baldwin, 
Lloyd Morgan, and Osborn have suggested that adaptive 
individual modifiability may serve as a life-saving screen till 
hereditary germinal variations in the same direction have 
grown strong. The third difficulty is in the excessive 
development of characters, such as decorations and weapons, 
beyond the limits of utility, and the answer, we glean, is 
found in Weismann's ingenious hypothesis of germinal 
selection. Huxley and Hooker took the field with enthu- 
siasm when Darwin extended his theory to the descent of 
man. From Wallace he received no support in this matter. 
Wallace admitted everything in regard to the morphological 
descent of man, but maintained, in a mystic manner, that 
something else, something spiritual, must have been added 
to that inherited from his animal ancestors. f Though he 
urged that natural selection accounted for the evolution of 
man's bodily frame from the simian stock, yet from this point 
of view some extraneous power had inspired him with his 
mentality, and with a future purpose in view had provided 
the mere savage with a brain disproportionate to his require- 

* F. Darwin, Letters of C. Darwin, p. 221 (1892 ed.). 
t Cf. G. Schwalbe in A. C. SewarcTs ed. Darwin and Modern Science, 
p. 116. 


merits, whether compared with civilised man or with the 

The well-known Essays and Reviews was an able effort to 
contribute to one of the many reconciliations between science 
and religion or rather theology. In it a thoughtful observer,! 
the Rev. Baden Powell (1796- 1860), Savilian Professor of 
Geometry at Oxford, records that : " Just a similar scepticism 
has been evinced by nearly all the first physiologists of the 
day, who have joined in rejecting the development theories 
of Lamarck and the Vestiges. . . . Yet it is now acknow-. 
ledged under the high sanction of Owen that ' creation ' is 
only another name for our ignorance of the mode of pro- 
duction, . . . while a work has now appeared by a naturalist 
of the most acknowledged authority, Mr. Darwin's masterly 
volume on the Origin of Species, by the law of ' natural 
selection/ which now substantiates on undeniable grounds 
the very principle so long denounced by the first naturalists 
the origination of new species by natural causes: a work 
which must soon bring about an entire revolution of opinion 
in favour of the grand principle of the self -evolving powers 
of nature/' These striking words appeared in 1860 in a 
study of the evidences of Christianity, and attest that the 
lead given by Temple at Oxford in 1860 was not altogether 
forgotten. Canon Henry Baker Tristram (1822 1906) was 
the first zoologist of any note who publicly accepted the Dar- 
winian views in his paper in the Ibis of October 1859, though 
on mature thought he modified his language. 

Lyell, Hooker, and Huxley had so often discussed the 
Origin of Species with Darwin that many of its difficulties 
and objections are met by anticipation. Of his three friends, 
Lyell and Hooker contributed most to this result. Darwin, 
in spite of all this preparation, found trouble in convincing 
naturalists who had "a bigoted idea of the term species/' { 
His ideas were more readily understood by intelligent people 
who were not professed naturalists. Among scientific men 
they were accepted most commonly by geologists, thanks to 
Lyell's Principles of Geology, next by the botanists, and least 

* A. R. Wallace, Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection, 

p. 359- 

t Essays and Reviews, pp. 138-9. 

J L. Huxley, Life and Letters of Sir J. D. Hooker, I, p. 508; F. Darwin 
and A. C Seward, More Letters of C. Darwin, I, p. 175. 


by the zoologists.* Darwin wrote to Lyell on December 2, 
1859 : " H. C. Watson tells me that one zoologist says he will 
read my book, ' but I will never believe it/ What a spirit 
to read any book in!"f Sir Roderick Murchison was a 
geologist who believed " that the evidence of the older forma- 
tion lent no support to the views now enunciated. Darwin 
" will have no creation no signs of a beginning millions 
of living things before the lowest Silurian no succession 
of creatures from lower to higher, but a mere transmutation 
from a monad to a man. His assumption of the position of 
the Lyellian theory, that causation never was more intense 
than it is. now, and that former great disruptions (faults) 
were all removed by the denudation of the ages, is so gratui- 
tous, and so entirely antagonistic to my creed, that I deny 
all his inductions, and am still as firm a believer as ever that 
a monkey and a man are distinct species, and not connected 
by any links." J 

Darwin's old teacher, the Rev. Professor Henslow, made 
a stout stand on his side, thinking the matter a legitimate one 
for investigation^ Some of the geologists relied for criti- 
cism on the assumed perfection of the geological record. 
On November 22, 1860, Darwin wrote to H. W. Bates, 
" As you say, I have been thoroughly well attacked and re- 
viled (especially by entomologists Westwood, Wollaston, 
and A. Murray have all reviled and sneered at me to their 
hearts' content), but I care nothing for their attacks." || We 
can understand Darwin writing : " I am actually weary of 
telling people that I do not pretend to adduce direct evidence 
of one species changing into another, but that I believe that 
this view in the main is correct, because so many phenomena 
can be thus grouped together and explained. But it is gener- 
ally of no use; I cannot make persons see this. I generally 
throw in their teeth the universally admitted theory of the 
undulation of light, neither the undulation nor the very 

* L. Huxley, Life and Letters of Sir J. D. Hooker, I, p. 508; F. Dar- 
win and A. C. Seward, More Letters of C. Darwin, I, p. 167. 

t F. Darwin, Life of C. Darwin, p. 218 (1892 ed.). 

j Sir A. Geikie, Life of Sir Roderick Murchison, II, p. 321. Contrast 
Sir A. Geikie, A Long Life's Work, pp. 71, 143. 

L. Huxley, Life and Letters of Sir J. D. Hooker, I, p. 508. Cf. F. 
Darwin, Letters of C. Danvin, pp. 227, 234 (1892 ed.). 

II F. Darwin and A. C. Seward, More Letters of C. Darwin, I, p. 118. 


existence of ether being proved, yet admitted because it 
explains so much/ 1 * 

The influence of an hypothesis comes out in the repeated 
references made to the difficulty of convincing the naturalists. 
Botanists and geologists proved more reasonable people. " I 
am much pleased/' Darwin records, " that the younger and 
middle-aged geologists are coming round, for the arguments 
from geology have always seemed strongest against me. Not 
one of the older geologists (except Lyell) has been ever 
shaken in his views of the eternal immutability of species." t 
On March 3, 1860, he wrote to Hooker : " One large class of 
men, more especially I suspect of naturalists, never will care 
about any general question, of which old Gray, J of the 
British Museum, may be taken as a type; and secondly, 
nearly all men past a moderate age, either in actual years or 
in mind, are, I am fully convinced, incapable of looking at 
facts under a new point of view. 1 ' The same despair of 
middle and old age breaks out in a letter to Huxley on 
December 2, 1860 : " I can pretty plainly see that, if my view 
is ever to be generally adopted, it will be by young men 
growing up and replacing the old workers, and then the 
young ones finding that they can group facts and search out 
new lines of investigation better on the notion of descent, than 
on that of creation." Throughout this correspondence we 
have instance after instance of elder men losing that elas- 
ticity of judgment and modifiability of intellect which are 
so indispensable for the reception of new and fundamental 
concepts. No wonder Hewett Cottrell Watson wrote to 
Darwin on November 21, 1859: "Now these novel views 
are brought fairly before the scientific public, it seems truly 
remarkable how so many of them could have failed to see 
their right road sooner. How could Sir C. Lyell, for in- 
stance, for thirty years read, write, and think on the subject 
of ' species and their succession ' and yet constantly look down 
the wrong road ? " || H. C. Watson might have gone on to 
ask, Why did the scientific public, after 1859, persist in still 
looking down the wrong road ? 

* F. Darwin and A. C. Seward, More Letters of C. Darwin, I, p. 184. 

t F. Darwin, Life of C. Darwin, p. 230 (1892 ed.). 

j Ibid., p. 219. 

Ibid., p. 244. 

jj F. Darwin, Life of C. Darwin, I, p. 352; II, p. 226. 


The quarrels of the scientific men are satirised in Public 
Opinion of April 23, 1863, in a graphic account of a police- 
case. Mr. John Bull gave evidence that 

" The whole neighbourhood was unsettled by their dis- 
putes; Huxley quarrelled with Owen, Owen with Darwin, 
Lyell with Owen, Falconer and Prestwich with Lyell, and 
Gray the menagerie man with everybody. He had pleasure, 
however, in stating that Darwin was the quietest of the set. 
They were always picking bones with each other and fighting 
over their gains. If either of the gravel sifters or stone 
breakers found anything, he was obliged to conceal it imme- 
diately, or one of the old bone collectors would be sure to 
appropriate it first and deny the theft afterwards, and the 
consequent wrangling and disputes were as endless as they 
were wearisome. 

" LORD MAYOR. Probably the clergyman of the parish 
might exert some influence over them? 

" The gentleman smiled, shook his head, and stated that he 
regretted to say that no class of men paid so little attention 
to the opinions of the clergy as that to which these unhappy 
men belonged." * 

In Bret Harte's Poems there is " Truthful Sammy's " 
account of the row " That broke up our Society upon the 

Now nothing: could be finer or more beautiful to see 
Than the first six months 1 proceedings of that same Society, 
Till Brown of Calaveras brought a lot of fossil bones 
That he found within a tunnel near the tenement of Jones. 

Then Brown he read a paper, and he reconstructed there, 

From those same bones, an animal extremely rare ; 

And Jones then asked the Chair for a suspension of the rules, 

Till he could prove that those same bones was one of his lost mules. 

Then Brown he smiled a bitter smile, and said he was at fault, 
It seemed he had been trespassing on Jones's family vault; 
He was a most sarcastic man, this quiet Mr. Brown, 
And on several occasions he had cleaned out the town. 

Now I hold it is not decent for a scientific gent 
To say another is an ass, at least, to all intent; 
Nor should the individual who happens to be meant 
Reply by heaving rocks at him, to any great extent. 

Then Abner Dean of Angel's raised a point of order, when 
A chunk of old red sandstone took him in the abdomen, 

* F. Darwin, Life of C. Darwin, p. 259 (1892 ed.). 


And he smiled a kind of sickly smile, and curled up on the floor, 
And the subsequent proceedings interested him no more. 

For, in less time than I write it, every member did engage 

In a warfare with the remnants of the palaeozoic age; 

And the way they heaved those fossils in their anger was a sin, 

Till the skull of an old mammoth caved the head of Thompson in. 

Of course these lines form amusing reading, but is it not 
pathetic to note that what should have been a contest for 
truth in the eyes of the public was regarded as a personal 
matter? It is a relief to turn to a letter the Rev. Charles 
Kingsley wrote on December 18, 1859. Kingsley was no 
match for such a subtle dialectician as John Henry Newman, 
yet there is an honesty of outlook in the man that commands 
our hearty respect. He wrote to Darwin : " I have to thank 
you for the unexpected honour of your book. That the 
naturalist whom, of all naturalists living, I most wish to 
know and to learn from, should have sent a scientist like 
me his book, encourages me at least to observe more carefully, 
and think more slowly. 

" I am so poorly (in brain), that I fear I cannot read your 
book just now as I ought. All I have seen of it awes me; 
both with the heap of facts and the prestige of your name, 
and also with the clear intuition, that if you be right, I must 
give up much that I have believed and written. 

" In that care I little. Let God be true, and every man 
a liar. Let us know what is, and, as old Socrates has it, 
7TT0at, TOJ \oy<w follow up the villainous shifty fox 
of an argument, into whatsoever unexpected bogs and brakes 
he may lead us, if we do but run into him at last. 

" From two common superstitions, at least, I shall be free 
while judging of your book : 

" (i) I have long since, from watching the crossing of 
domesticated animals and plants, learnt to disbelieve the 
dogma of the permanence of species. 

" (2) I have gradually learnt to see that it is just as noble 
a conception of Deity, to believe that He created primal 
forms capable of self-development into all forms needful pro 
tempore and pro loco, as to believe that He required a fresh 
act of intervention to supply the lacunas which He Himself 
had made. I question whether the former be not the loftier 


" Be that as it may, I shall prize your book, both for itself, 
and as a proof that you are aware of the existence of such a 
person as Your faithful servant, C. Kingsley." * 

The Vicar of Down, Darwin's parish church, was the Rev. 
J. Brodie Innes, of Milton Brodie, and he writes : " We never 
attacked each other. Before I knew Mr. Darwin I had 
adopted, and publicly expressed, the principle that the study 
of natural history, geology, and science in general should 
be pursued without reference to the Bible. That the Book 
of Nature and Scripture came from the same Divine source, 
ran in parallel lines, and when properly understood would 
never cross. . , . 

" In [a] letter, after I had left Down, he [Darwin] writes, 
' We often differed, but you are one of those rare mortals 
from whom one can differ and yet feel no shade of animosity, 
and that is a thing [of] which I should feel very proud if 
any one could say [it] of me.' 

" On my last visit to Down, Mr. Darwin said, at his din- 
ner-table, ' Innes and I have been fast friends for thirty years, 
and we never thoroughly agreed on any subject but once, and 
then we stared hard at each other, and thought one of us 
must be very ill." f 

Darwin had to face the opposition of William Henry 
Harvey ( 181 1 1866), an Irishman whom he terms " a first- 
rate botanist/' For seven years Harvey worked hard at the 
botany of South Africa, and became the chief authority on 
algae. In 1853 he visited India, Australia, and the South 
Sea Islands, a voyage of three years, covering much of the 
ground Darwin had covered. In 1859 he was forty-eight, 
not too advanced an age, one would have thought, to receive 
a new idea, yet it seems, as with most men of science of his 
time who were already in mental maturity, the Origin con- 
tained doctrines too revolutionary to be readily accepted by 
him.J So far from accepting Darwin's theory, he delivered 
an address against it, and he had this address printed. Sub- 
sequently he came round to accept some of the views pro- 
pounded, and did his best to call in copies of the address, 
which to the end of his life he sincerely regretted having 

* F. Darwin, Life of C. Darwin, p. 228 (1892 ed.). 

t F. Darwin, Life of C. Darwin, p. 229 (1892 ed.). 

j W. V. Ball, Reminiscences and Letters of Sir R. Ball, p. 44. 


published. But he never became a real Darwinian. In one 
of his letters to Asa Gray he wrote, " A good deal of Darwin 
reads to me like an ingenious dream," * which is pretty much 
the attitude of Sedgwick. Harvey's own work lay in 
botanical discrimination, description, and illustration. 
Though ready to admit natural selection as a vera causa of 
much change, he would not go so far as to admit 
it a vera causa of species. He suspected that Dar- 
win had ascribed too great efficacy to secondary causes 
and, as it were, deified natural selection, f Hooker, 
who was an old friend of Harvey, told him that he had been 
of the views of Darwin for fourteen years before he had 
adopted them, and that he had done so solely and entirely 
from an independent study of the plants themselves. Hooker 
wrote to Harvey, " I am profoundly indifferent to the 
sneers and contempt I have received from the opposite side 
of your passage [the Irish Sea], Asa Gray alone has 
treated me with candour and fairness; all other botanists 
are either indifferent, hostile, or contemptuous.":}: 

John Hutton Balfour (1808 1884) was a Scots sys- 
tematic botanist who conducted botanical excursions with 
pupils energetically, and extended them to almost every part 
of Scotland. Impartial in the breadth of his teaching, he 
was ever anxious to assimilate new knowledge. The know- 
ledge of 1859 proved too much for him, and he found him- 
self unable to accept it. Just as Harvey turned Irish 
opinion in general and Dublin University opinion in particular 
against Darwin, so Balfour turned Scots opinion in general 
and Edinburgh University opinion || in particular. Nor was 
the attitude of Oxford University more friendly. John 
Phillips (1800 1874) was Professor of Geology there. 
More than a hundred papers stand under his name in the 
Catalogue of the Royal Society, and the variety of their 
subjects attests the wide range of his knowledge. Attractive 
as a speaker and lecturer, he was, we learn, eminently judi- 
cious, ever courteous, genial, and conciliatory. It was 
serious for Darwin that he too stood on the side of opposi- 

* W. V. Ball, Reminiscences and Letters of Sir R. Ball, p. 44. 
t L. Huxley, Life and Letters of Sir J. D. Hooker, I, p. 26. 

Ibid., I, p. 515. 

Ibid., p. 202. 

Ibid., p. SIS. 


tion. William Clark (1788 1869) was Professor of Ana- 
tomy in Cambridge University, and carried out his duties so 
efficiently that he laid the foundation of the school of bio- 
logical science at Cambridge. He always lectured from the 
actual subject, which was not usually done in his time, and 
performed the dissections himself with singular neatness. 
Like Phillips, with Sedgwick he opposed the opinions of the 
Origin.* We have given enough from the Universities of 
Dublin and Edinburgh, of Oxford and Cambridge, to prove 
that the scientific world displayed no undue eagerness to 
believe what was set before it. The three men who knew 
Darwin thoroughly well, Lyell, Hooker, and Huxley, ac- 
cepted his ideas, but the members of the world of science 
outside this narrow range set their faces like a flint 
against them. Nor was Oxford University the only home 
of lost causes. The academic world felt pretty unanimous 
on this point. 

Hugh Falconer (1808 1865) was a botanist and a 
palaeontologist of more than common distinction. Marked 
by a penetrating intellect, he had the charm of a frank and 
winning disposition. Securing a nomination as assistant- 
surgeon on the Bengal establishment of the East India Com- 
pany, he turned his attention to the two subjects in which 
he has won permanent fame. For twenty-five years he 
laboured at them, discovering the earliest fossil quadrumana, 
many species of the mastodon and elephant, several species 
of rhinoceros, new sub-genera of hippopotamus, the colossal 
ruminant sivatherium, species of ostrich, crocodiles, the enor- 
mous tortoise collossochelys, and numerous fishes. On his 
retirement from the Indian service in the spring of 1855, 
he resumed his palaeontological researches, visiting almost 
every museum in Western Europe. Researches on the 
fauna of the ossiferous caves of Gower led him in 1860 to 
prove that elephas antiquus and rhinoceros hemitoechus were 
members of the cave fauna of England. In his latter years 
he spent much time in examining the evidences as to the 
antiquity of man, which he had been led to anticipate in 
India in 1844. I* 1 f act > every current question about fossil 
mammalia and prehistoric man Falconer investigated and 

* Huxley, Life and Letters of Sir J. D. Hooker, p. 514. 


commented upon in a patient, impartial, and candid spirit. 
He was always seeking fresh evidence and developing his 
ideas, many of which he never committed to writing, owing 
to the tenaciousness of his memory. Having returned hastily 
from Gibraltar to support the claims of Darwin to the Copley 
Medal, the highest award of the Royal Society, he suffered 
much from fatigue and exposure, and on January 31, 1865, 
he passed away. In 1861 he had been rambling through the 
north of Italy and Germany, and everywhere he heard Dar- 
winism discussed " the views of course often dissented 
from, according to the special bias of the speaker but the 
work, its honesty of purpose, grandeur of conception, felicity 
of illustration, and courageous exposition, always referred 
to in terms of the highest admiration." * In spite of all 
this praise, he was among those who did not fully accept the 
views expressed in the Origin, but he could differ from its 
author without bitterness.f 

Sir Edward Sabine (1788 1883) was a distinguished 
general of the Royal Artillery who also attained the position 
of President of the Royal Society. With his scientific 
capacity he possessed a personality as attractive as that of 
Hugh Falconer himself. His grace of manner and invin- 
cible cheerfulness rendered him universally popular. Astro- 
nomy, terrestrial magnetism, biology, and ornithology were 
his favourite studies. He was anti-Darwinian, and not un- 
willing to deliver a left-handed attack on the new Copley 
medallist. Darwin records that " some old members of the 
Royal [Society] are quite shocked at my having the Cop- 
ley. "$ He goes on to say that " such a feeling existed is clear 
from the action of the Council in pointedly omitting from the 
grounds of their award the theory set forth in the Origin. 
That this book could within five years of its publication be 
valued by the Royal Society merely as a ' mass of observa- 
tions, etc./ is striking evidence of the slow progress of Evo- 
lution. It may perhaps be said that 1870 is the date at which 
the current of scientific opinion is seen to be definitely flowing 
in the direction of Evolution." J 

* F. Darwin, Life of C. Darzvin, p. 247. 

t F. Darwin and A. C. Seward, More Letters of C. Darwin, I, p. 253. 
^ J. W. Clark and A. C. Seward, Order of the Proceedings at the 
Darwin Celebration held at Cambridge, June 22-24, 1909, p. 20. 


At the Anniversary Meeting and Dinner of the Royal 
Society in 1864, Sabine wrote the only part of the address to 
Darwin : " Speaking generally and collectively, we have 
expressly omitted it [Darwin's theory] from the grounds of 
our award." * Hooker wrote to Darwin on December 2, 
1864 : " Have you heard of the small breeze at R.S. a propos 
of your reward? Busk told me thus: Sabine said, in his 
address, that in awarding you the Copley ' all consideration 
of your Origin was expressly excluded.' After the address, 
Huxley gets up and asks how this is, and being assured it is 
so, he insists on the Minutes of the Council being produced 
and read, in which of course there was no such exclusion or 
indeed any allusion to the Origin. Busk and Sabine were 
afterwards discussing the point, Sabine saying that no 
allusion = express exclusion, and shuffling as usual, when up 
comes Falconer, and to Busk's horror compliments Sabine's 
address unreservedly. Busk, thinking that Falconer had 
overheard the discussion, said nothing at the time, but calls 
Falconer to account, upon which Falconer is grievously put 
out at finding what he has done and forthwith goes and 
writes a letter to Sabine on the subject. May the Lord have 
mercy on Sabine, is all I can say; for Falconer will have 
none." f 

It was reserved for a Professor of Engineering at Edin- 
burgh to deliver what Darwin felt to be the most valuable 
criticism ever made on his views, J and this professor was 
Henry Charles Fleeming Jenkin (1833 1885). His taste 
in literature was as broad and unconventional as in science. 
His determinative work in electricity is of the highest value, 
while his varied originality as an inventor is testified by his 
thirty-five patents, and by his scientific papers. He criti- 
cised natural selection on mathematical grounds. It was, 
he urged, an infinitesimal chance that an individual with a 
particular variation should meet with a similar varying 
mate and so propagate the variation. 

* L. Huxley, Life and Letters of T. PL Huxley, I, p. 254. 

t L. Huxley, Life and Letters of Sir /. D. Hooker, II, p. 75 ; L. Huxley, 
Life and Letters of T. H. Huxley, I, p. 254; J. W. Clark and A. C. 
Seward, Order of the Proceedings at the Darwin Celebration held at 
Cambridge, June 22-24, 1909, p. 20. 

J F. Darwin, Life of C. Darwin, p. 274. 

L. Huxley, Life and Letters of Sir J. D. Hooker, II, p. 83. 


St. George Jackson Mivart (1827 1900) was a brilliant 
biologist and anatomist who formally opposed Darwinism 
while he supported evolution by the side-issue of derivative 
creation. He consistently maintained an essential disparity 
between organic and inorganic matter, and between human 
reason and the highest faculties of the brutes. Natural 
selection he relegated to an extremely subordinate place, and 
attributed the formation of specific characters to a principle 
of individuation, which he postulated as the essence of life. 
He freely criticised the hypothesis of the great naturalist 
both in the Quarterly Review * and in a substantive essay 
" On the Genesis of Species/' and this assertion of the right 
of private judgment led to an estrangement from both Hux- 
ley and Darwin. Huxley replied in an article in the Con- 
temporary Review which was extremely effective.! Mivart 
had attempted to show that evolution, at least in his sense, 
had been accepted in advance by such authorities in his com- 
munion as the Jesuit Suarez. Turning up the references 
quoted, Huxley ascertained that the precise opposite was 
stated, and with delicious irony was able to pose as the 
defender of Roman Catholic orthodoxy against a heterodox 
son of the Church. At the same time he was full of cold 
anger against the man who was writing privately to express 
his friendship for Darwin, yet, as the anonymous critic in 
the Quarterly Revieiv, was treating Darwin in a manner 
Hooker terms " alike unjust and unbecoming." J For 
Mivart sneered at Darwin's candour, one of the most 
attractive of his many attractive qualities, and at the mutu- 
ally generous relations between him and Wallace over the 
enunciation of natural selection. This Mivart criticism is 
one of the least edifying episodes of the whole controversy. 
Asa Gray occupies a high position in the ranks of Ameri- 
can ^ men of science, and it is plain that Darwin was most 
anxious to enlist his adherence. Gray was impressed by the 
masterly manner and the no less masterly matter of the 
Origin. On January 23, 1860, Gray wrote to Darwin: " It 
naturally happens that my review of your book does not 

* CXXXI, p. 47. 

t T. H. Huxley, Darwiniana, pp. 120-86. It is one of the most pun- 
gent and penetrating articles Huxley ever wrote. 
$ L. Huxley, Life and Letters of Sir J. D. Hooker, II, p. 128. 


exhibit anything like the full force of the impression the 
book has made upon me. Under the circumstances I suppose 
I do your theory more good here, by bespeaking for it a fair 
and favourable consideration, and by standing non-committed 
as to its full conclusions, than I should if I announced myself 
a convert ; nor could I say the latter, with truth. Well, what 
seems to be the weakest point in the book is the attempt to 
account for the formation of organs, the making of eyes, 
etc., by natural selection. Some of this reads quite 
Lamarckian." * Any reference to the labours of Lamarck 
stirred Darwin to fury, and we can readily conceive how this 
letter must have made him writhe. 

Louis Jean Rodolphe Agassiz (1807 1873) entered a col- 
lege at Bienne at the age of 10, and from 1822 to 1824 he 
was a student at the Academy of Lausanne. He afterwards 
spent some years as a student in the Universities 
of Zurich, Heidelberg, and Munich, where he gained a 
reputation as a skilful fencer. It was at Heidelberg that 
his studies took a definite turn towards natural history. He 
took a Ph.D. degree at Erlangen in 1829. He published his 
first paper in Isis in 1828, and for many years devoted him- 
self to ichthyology. During a visit to Paris he became 
acquainted with Cuvier and Alexander von Humboldt; in 
1833, through the liberality of the latter, he began the publi- 
cation of his Recherche s sur les Poissons Fossiles, and in 
1840 he completed his Etudes sur les Glaciers. In 1846116 
went to Boston, where he lectured in the Lowell Institute, and 
in the following year became Professor of Geology and Zoo- 
logy at Cambridge. During the last twenty-seven years of 
his life Agassiz lived in America, and exerted a wide influence 
on the study of natural history in the United States. In 
1836 he received the Wollaston Medal of the Geological 
Society of London, and in 1861 was selected for the Copley 
Medal of the Royal Society. In an article on " Evolution 
and Permanence of Type " he repeated his strong conviction 
against the views embodied in the Origin. " A physical 
fact/' to him, " is as sacred as a moral principle. Our own 
nature demands from us this double allegiance. ... I hope 
in future articles to show, first, that, however broken the 

* F. Darwin, Letters of C. Darwin, p. 225. This letter is better given 
in A. Gray, Letters, II, p. 457. 


geological record may be, there is a complete sequence in 
many parts of it, from which the character of the succession 
may be ascertained ; secondly, that, since the most exquisitely 
delicate structures, as well as embryonic phases of growth 
of the most perishable nature, have been preserved from 
very early deposits, we have no right to infer the disappear- 
ance of types because their absence disproves some favourite 
theory; and lastly, that there is no evidence of a direct 
descent of later from earlier species in the geological suc- 
cession of animals." * 

The high opinion Darwin f entertained of Agassiz comes 
out in a letter he wrote to Longfellow : " What a set of men 
you have in Harvard! Both our universities put together 
cannot furnish the like. Why, there is Agassiz, he counts 
for three." J And it is pleasant to record that of Darwin 
personally Agassiz had none but good words. 

In a letter to Sir Philip de Grey Egerton, Agassiz wrote : 
" My recent studies have made me more adverse than ever 
to the new scientific doctrines which are flourishing in Eng- 
land. This sensational zeal reminds me of what I experi- 
enced as a young man in Germany, when the physio-philo- 
sophy of Oken had invaded every centre of scientific activity; 
and yet, what is there left of it? I trust to outlive this 
mania also. As usual, I do not ask beforehand what you 
think of it, and I may have put my hand into a hornet's nest ; 
but you know your old friend Agassiz, and will forgive 
him if he hits a tender spot." Nor were the effects of the 
criticism of Agassiz confined either to America or to Eng- 
land. The Professor of Zoology at Gottingen, Keferstein, 
wrote in 1862 in the Gottinger Gelehrte Anzcigcr: " It gives 
great satisfaction to the earnest scientific worker to see a 
man like Agassiz, with an authority based on the finest zoo- 
logical works, reject unreservedly a theory [i.e. Darwin's] 
that would discredit the whole work of classifiers for a cen- 
tury, and to see the views built up by several generations and 
the general consent of humanity hold a stronger position than 

* C. F. Holder, Louis Agassis, p. 181. Cf. F. Darwin, Letters of 
C. Darwin, p. 225. 

t Ibid., p. 180. Cf. J. Marcon, Life, Letters, and Works of Louis 
Agassis: E. C. Agassiz, Louis Agassis, his Life and Correspondence. 

J C. F. Holder, Louis Agassiz, p. 180. 

Ibid., p. 180. Cf. the Smithsonian Report, 1873, p. 198. 


the views of a single individual, however eloquently they 
may be cited." * 

Agassiz, like Asa Gray, could not renounce his firmly- 
established conceptions, and the remark Hooker makes of 
Gray applies to him also, and alas ! to many another scientist 
as well. Hooker records, " I did not follow Gray into his 
later comments on Darwinism, and I never read his Dar- 
winiana. My recollection of his attitude after acceptance 
of the doctrine, and during the first few years of his active 
promulgation of it, is, that he understood it clearly, but 
sought to harmonise it with his prepossession without dis- 
turbing its physical principles in any way." f A mind that 
has hardened down into the last stage of extreme maturity 
may assimilate fresh facts and fresh minor principles, but 
it cannot accept fresh synthetic systems of the cosmos. 
Besides, some of the senior thinkers were committed before- 
hand to opposing views, with which they lacked either the 
courage or the intellectual power to break. A scientist 
wants that state of mind Goethe defined as " Thatige Skep- 
sis " active doubt. What he possesses is not uncommonly 
passive acquiescence in accepted opinion. There is a scientific 
orthodoxy which works untold harm. Like the Bourbons, 
it neither learns nor forgets. It owns a scientific creed, and, 
though it commits intellectual suicide by so doing, imposes 
official punishments on those who refuse to accept it. 

Among the English-speaking races in our own islands and 
in North America there was frank hostility displayed to the 
Origin. Nor is there any reason to believe that European 
opinion was very much more friendly. The Secretaire 
Perpetuel, P. Flourens, published J in 1864 his dull, weak, 
and shallow Examination du Livre de M. Darwin snr 
rOrigine des Especes. The work of Jean Louis Armand de 
Quatrefages de Breau was largely anthropological, and in 
his writings and lectures he always combated evolutionary 
ideas. Gaspard Auguste Brulle, Professor of Zoology and 
Comparative Anatomy at Dijon, could not comprehend these 
ideas, and was in 1864 still unconvinced of their truth. || 

* W. Bolsche, Haeckel, his Life and Work, p. 148. 

t L. Huxley, Life and Letters of Sir J. D. Hooker, II, p. 305. 

J Cf. T. H. Huxley's delicious critique in his Danviniana^ pp. 98-106. 

F. Darwin and A. C. Seward, More Letters of C. Darwin, I, p. 186. 

|| Ibid., I, p. 257. 


Frangois Jules Pictet, the palaeontologist, in the Archives des 
Sciences de la Bibliotheque Universelle, Mars 1860, delivered 
himself, and of his deliverance Darwin wrote : " There has 
been one prodigy of a review, namely, an opposed one . . . 
which is perfectly fair and just, and I agree to every word 
he says ; our only difference being that he attaches less weight 
to arguments in favour, and more to the arguments opposed, 
than I do. Of all the opposed reviews, I think this the only 
quite fair one, and I never expected to see one." * If there 
were a de Breau and a Pictet on the one side, there was a 
Gaudry and a Ribot on the other. In 1878 Darwin was 
elected a Corresponding Member of the French Institute in 
the Botanical Section. In 1872 an attempt had been made 
to elect him in the Section of Zoology, when he only received 
fifteen out of forty-eight votes, and Loven was chosen 
instead. The zoologists cherished their dislike of his ideas 
longer than the other scientists. 

In all the labours of Jean Henri Casimir Fabre (1823 
1915) there is the touch of the poet who can exclaim with 
Browning : 

The rest may reason and welcome: 'tis we musicians know. 
His method of working combined with his patience in 
research rendered him what Darwin called him, " an incom- 
parable observer/' f Fabre came of a humble stock, like 
many other great men. But he had received a good educa- 
tion, partly in village schools and local colleges, partly the gift 
of his own resolute perseverance. He was something of a 
chemist, a mathematician who had conquered the binomial 
theorem, and a fair classical scholar. He was a schoolmaster 
at Carpentras, a professor at Ajaccio and Avignon, before 
whom the possibility of a chair at one of the greater universi- 
ties lay open. The complete story of what led to his retire- 
ment, first to Orange and then to Serignan, and to the need 
of supporting himself by his pen, is not told in his own books. 
It had something to do with politics, something with a 
quarrel with the Church of which he always remained a 
devout member, and something to do with the destruction of 
madder-growing by artificial dyes. But if it seemed a mis- 

* F. Darwin, Life of C. Darwin, p. 231. 

t A. Fabre, The Life of J. H. Fabre, p. 215. Darwin was acquainted 
only with the first volume of Fabre's Souvenirs. Darwin died in 1881, 
and the second volume of the Souvenirs appeared in 1883. 


fortune at the time, he faced it bravely, and the world was 
the gainer. There are many who can make morphological 
studies and accomplish the systematic work on which Fabre 
had started, and which doubtless he would have con- 
tinued in academic ease. But there have been very few 
Dbservers of living things so untiring or so understanding. 
His peaceful yet arduous years at Serignan provided him with 
:he environment and the occupations most congenial to his 
latural bent. Had his early ambitions been realised, we 
should have had another great entomologist, but not the 
Virgil of the Insects. Fabre was an artist in words, as 
>vell as an incomparable observer. He adopted an attitude 
leasing to himself and pleasing to his audience. Here am I, 
le continued to say, a poor peasant, in my sun-baked southern 
lelds. I have neither the riches of the tropics nor the 
issistance of libraries and laboratories. But it is the truth 
- "i ve y u > an d not the theories by which scientific men are 
)eguiled. Great people, no doubt, but overwhelmed by their 
;cience, puffed up with pride! Let me show you what can 
>e done in a field, with patience. Away with names and 
:lassifications and all their fusty jargon! In actual fact 
here was never anyone more careful to identify the creatures 
le was observing or to use their names correctly. This 
mnctilious exactitude, combined with almost vehement dis- 
:laimer of it, has set pitfalls into which critics have fallen. 
\nd in the same fashion, his real obedience to the scientific 
nethod of observation, deduction, and confirming experi- 
nent, joined with a lyrical denunciation of science, has snared 
nany an unwary commentator. 

His stubborn opposition to evolution was a logical conse- 
[uence of the evidence before him, as it was to Milne- 
dwards, a French scientist who remained to the end uncon- 
r inced by the arguments of Darwin. The greater part of 
? abre's life was concentrated on the study of instinct among 
reatures which show that quality in its highest form. He 
ame on the theory of descent at a time when the effort was 
nade to derive the higher structure or quality from the 
Lighest stage of the structure or quality next below it. 
Assuming that intelligence had arisen from instincts, the 
omparison was made between human intelligence and the 
Lighest types of instinct. We now know that to be a wrong 


method. Intelligence must be traced down to its lowest 
grades, and instinct must similarly be traced backwards until 
it is possible to compare the most primitive forms of each. 
One might as readily try to derive a cat from a canary as the 
intelligence of man from the instincts of the mason wasps. 
Fabre's contention against evolutionism, on its negative 
side, was sound. " Can the insect/' he asked, " have 
acquired its skill gradually from generation to generation, by 
a long series of casual experiments, of blind gropings? Can 
such order be born of chaos; such foresight of hazard; such 
wisdom of stupidity? Is the world subject to the fatalities 
of evolution, from the first albuminous atom which coagu- 
lated into a cell, or is it ruled by an Intelligence ? The more 
I see and the more I observe, the more does this Intelligence 
shine behind the mystery of things." 

In 1 86 1 Charles Nauclin presented to the French Academy 
a paper, with coloured plates, on " Nouvelles Recherches sur 
THybridite dans les Vegetaux."* In it he proceeds to 
develop a mechanical theory of reproduction of the same 
general character as pangenesis. In the Variations of 
Animals and Plants,^ Darwin states that in his treatment 
of hybridism in terms of gemmules he is practically follow- 
ing Naudin's treatment of the same theme in terms of 
" essences." Naudin, however, does not clearly distinguish 
between hybrid and pure gemmules, and makes the assump- 
tion that the hybrid or mixed essences tend constantly to 
dissociate into pure parental essences, and thus to lead to 
reversion. It is to this view Darwin refers when he says 
that Naudin's view throws no light on the reversion to long- 
lost characters. $ Mr. Bateson takes occasion to point out 
that " Naudin clearly enunciated what we shall henceforth 
know as the Mendelian conception of the dissociation of 
characters of cross-breds in the formation of germ-cells, 
though he apparently never developed this conception," 
The need of co-ordination in science is manifest when we 

* Nouvelles Archives du Museum d'Hist. Nat., vol. I, p. 25. The 
second part only appeared in Ann. Sci. Nat., XIX. A review of Naudin 
is in the Natural History Revieiv, 1864, p. ix. George Bentham dealt 
with hybridism in Proc. Linn. Soc., VIII, 1864, p. 50. 

t Vol. II, p. 395 (2nd ed.). 

Ibid., II, p. 595- 

W. Bateson, Mendel: Principle of Heredity, p. 38. 


say that Darwin never in any way came across Mendel's 
work. Remarkably enough, the late Mr. Laxton of Stam- 
ford was close on the track of Mendelian principle. Mr. 
Bateson writes that " had he [Laxton] with his other gifts 
combined that penetration which detects a great principle 
hidden in the thin mist of ' exceptions/ we should have been 
able to claim for him that honour which must ever be Men- 
del's in the history of discovery." Johann Gregor Mendel 
(1822 1884) carried out in the garden of the monastery 
of Brunn, in Bohemia, his plant-breeding experiments. Those 
on peas lasted for eight years, and he took as much care with 
them as Darwin himself. Then in 1865 he laid the results 
before the Brunn Society, and published them in 1866. They, 
however, attracted little attention from the savants and were 
simply forgotten for thirty-five years, and the neglect em- 
bittered the heart of the discoverer. What effect might 
they not have had on the mind of Darwin had he met with 
this discovery? * 

Though Bronn translated the first German edition of the 
Origin, he thought of evolution as no more than a possibility. 
" From the first," declares Wilhelm Bolsche, " Darwin 
Haeckel was the first to experience it was branded with the 
anathemas of the two opposite schools of science in Germany. 
On the one hand the vigorous and exact workers declared that 
his teaching was pure metaphysics, because it sought to prove 
evolution and contemplated vast ideal connections. On the 
other hand the Dualist metaphysicians denounced him as an 
empiric of the worst character, who sought to replace the 
great ideal elements in the world by a few miserable natural 
necessities. It is significant to find that Schopenhauer, the 
brilliant thinker, regarded the Origin of Species as one of 
the empirical soapsud or barber books produced by exact 
investigation, which he thoroughly despised from his meta- 
physical point of view. And there were already (there are 
more to-day) whole schools of zoology and botany that 
looked upon Darwin's theoretical explanations as unscientific 
mysticism, metaphysics, and philosophy in the worst 
sense." f 

* Yet contrast J. W. Clark and A. C. Seward, More Letters of C. 
Darwin, II, p. 339. 
t W. Bolsche, Haeckel, his Life and Work, p. 132. 


The geologist Otto Volger is not an unfair representa- 
tive of views like these. Curiously enough, he was the man 
who preserved from destruction the venerable Goethe-house 
at Frankfort-on-the-Main, but the spirit of the poet-scientist 
in no wise rested on him. He declared that Darwinism in 
general was an unsupported hypothesis, but he made a con- 
cession. The species of animals and plants need not be abso- 
lutely unchangeable. The only thing that is impossible is a 
continuous upward direction in evolution. All the groups of 
living things, even the highest, may have been present 
together from the earliest days. Local changes in 
the distribution of land, water, etc., must have brought 
about a certain amount of variation in life forms. 
The proper symbol of the story of life is the wave 
that rises out of the sea and sinks back into it. 
The real image of human life is the analogy of its 
obvious development : youth, maturity, then old age and back 
once more. This conception, he urged, retained the idea of 
an " eternal becoming/' which he deemed better than a rigid 
fulfilment. If there were a Volger and a Kolliker on the one 
side, there were the brothers Fritz and Hermann Miiller and 
Riitimeyr on the other. Rudolph Albert von Kolliker 
attained fame for his researches in anatomy, embryology, 
and above all histology. In 1845 ^ le demonstrated the con- 
tinuity between nerve-fibres and nerve-cells of vertebrates. 
Three years later he isolated the elements of smooth muscle. 
In 1849 to I ^5 * le ^d fine work on the development of the 
skull and the backbone. He gave marked impetus to the 
cell theory, and he traced the origin of tissues from the seg- 
menting ovum through the developing embryo. With such 
wealth of knowledge he faced the problems raised by the 
Origin.* In his Ueber die Darwin' 'sche Schopfungstheorie, 
ein Vortrag he enumerates and discusses eight objections! : 

1. No transitional forms between existing species are 
known ; and known varieties, whether selected or spontaneous, 
never go so far as to establish new species. 

2. No transitional forms of animals are met with among 
the organic remains of earlier epochs. 

* L. Huxley, Life and Letters of Sir J. D. Hooker, II, p. 57. 
t I use the convenient summary of T. H. Huxley, Darwiniana, pp. 


3. The struggle for existence does not take place. 

4. A tendency of organisms to give rise to useful varieties, 
and a natural selection, do not exist. 

5. Pelzeln has also objected that if the later organisms 
have proceeded from the earlier, the whole developmental 
series, from the simplest to the highest, could not now exist ; 
in such a case the simpler organisms must have disappeared. 

6. Great weight must be attached to the objection brought 
forward by Huxley, otherwise a warm supporter of Darwin's 
hypothesis, that we know of no varieties which are sterile 
with one another, as is the rule among sharply distinguished 
animal forms. 

7. The teleological general conception adopted by Darwin 
is a mistaken one. 

8. The developmental theory of Darwin is not needed to 
enable us to understand the regular harmonious progress of 
the complete series of organic forms from the simpler to the 
more perfect. 

Von Baer broke the spell laid by Cuvier on natural science. 
He broadened the principle of development beyond the limits 
of morphology and comparative anatomy to which Cuvier 
was confining it. From 1819 to 1837 he was engaged in the 
task of demonstrating in thorough fashion the truth of epi- 
genesis. Development was to him the sole basis of zoological 
classification, bringing the study of living forms back to 
their origins. He persisted to the end of his long life in 
minimising the transformation of species, which is " very 
probable, but only to a limited extent." * 

The bulk of the criticisms we have given appeared almost 
immediately after the publication of the Origin of Species, 
and we do not think that, on the whole, we have given any 
criticism of later date than the year 1864, within five years 
of its appearance. They leave on the mind of the candid 
reader the impression Huxley took the trouble to record in 
1887: " There is not the slightest doubt that, if a General 
Council of the Church scientific had been held at that time 
[c. 1860], we should have been condemned by an overwhelm- 

* K. E. von Baer, Das Allgemeinste Gesetze der Natur in aller Ent- 
wickclung, I, p. 60. Cf. pp. 37, 39- Cf. his Uebcr Entwick clung s- 
geschichte der Thiere Beobachtung and Reflexion, 5th ed. 


ing majority.' 7 * In 1885 he had written : " It is curious now 
to remember how largely, at first, the objectors predomin- 
ated/' f The case is strong enough, if we survey the Ameri- 
can, French, and German evidence, to hold that any 
Ecumenical Council of the Church scientific would have 
reached precisely the same conclusion. 

Of course it is not fair to employ against Darwinism 
developments of the doctrine since 1864. Work of the 
highest character has been carried out by men like Mendel 
and Weismann, De Vries and Pavlov of the University of 
Petrograd, who with others had introduced a new interest in 
inheritance of acquired characters and therefore a revival in 
Lamarckism. Take a particular instance. Dr. Patrick 
Geddes became assistant lecturer at University College, 
London, and he also became a disciple of Lamarck rather 
than of Darwin. He used to say that the hypothesis of evo- 
lution through natural selection accounted for our survival 
by explaining the deaths of our uncles and aunts, and that 
it was consequently rather a theory in necrology than in 
biology. Within twenty years the divines had become recon- 
ciled to the teaching of evolution given in 1859, while the 
biologists evinced a growing scepticism about some of the 
Darwinian conclusions. J 

The mutation theory of De Vries explains the origin of 
species by sudden and saltatory leaps rather than by gradual 
modification and is received by botanists and rejected by zoo- 
logists. The distinguished French palseobotanists C. Grand 
Eury and R. Zeiller, think that the facts of fossil botany 
lend weight to the view of the sudden appearance of new 
forms. 1 1 

* J. W. Clark and A. C. Seward, Order of the Proceedings at the Dar- 
win Celebration held at Cambridge, June 22-24, 1909, p. 20. 

t T. II. Huxley, Darwiniana, p. 249. 

j In 1873 Kelvin, when off the coast of Madeira, said: "It has been 
impossible to keep off Darwinism, and although Madeira gave Darwin 
some of his most notable and ingenious illustrations and proof s( !), we 
find at every turn something to show (if anything were needed to show) 
the utter futility of his philosophy." S. P. Thompson, Life of Lord 
Kelvin, II, p. 637. 

R. Zeiller, " Les Vegetaux f ossiles et leurs Enchainements," Revue dii 
Mois f III, February 1907. 

|| The present Lord Rayleigh asked his father in 1906 whether, on the 
whole, he could accept natural selection as a sufficient explanation of evo- 
lution. " Well, no," he said, " I don't think I can quite swallow it." Cf. 
Rayleigh, Life of Lord Rayleigh, p. 45. 


Weismann has challenged the evidence that use and disuse 
have any transmitted effects at all. Expounding the theory 
of the continuity of the germ-plasm, he has changed the 
fashion of science, and attention is now directed to the 
chemico-physical processes of life, and to heredity merely in 
so far as it throws light upon these processes. Biologists of 
the standing of Sir E. Ray Lankester and Professor J, 
Arthur Thomson, of Mr. Francis Galton and Nageli, regard 
this theory of the continuity of the germ-plasm as the most 
striking advance of evolutionary science. On the other 
hand, Herbert Spencer and Sir William Turner, Hertwig and 
Haeckel, Gegenbaur and Kolliker, are agreed in rejecting it. 

Though this matter is not entirely pertinent to our pur- 
pose, we think it deserves a few words more. Darwin, like 
most of his contemporaries and predecessors, believed that 
characters stamped by environment on a living creature could 
be inherited by its descendants. There was indeed difference 
of opinion as to the extent of such influences and as to their 
total effect in producing permanent modifications such as 
might lead to a new species or to new adaptations. Reflective 
persons understood that the same environmental force, per- 
chance the influence of heat or of light, would produce 
different effects on different organisms, the " acquired charac- 
ter " being a composite reaction between the inborn capacities 
of response or resistance to impinging forces and the direct 
effect of the forces themselves. But there was general 
acceptance that the characters could be inherited and were 

No reasonable theory existed as to how these characters 
could be transferred to the reproductive organs and stored 
in their reproductive cells in such a fashion that when one 
of the latter grew into a new organism the character acquired 
by its parent would reappear in the progeny without the 
presence of external stimulus. Darwin appreciated the diffi- 
culty, and offered his theory of pangenesis not so much as a 
suggestion of what actually did occur as of the kind of 
machinery required to explain what appeared to be the facts. 
According to this theory, every part of the body discharged 
into the blood minute particles stamped with its qualities. 
These were collected by the reproductive organs, entered the 
reproductive cells, and thus formed a material link between 


parent and progeny. Other theories, similar in character, 
were propounded. But there was no exact evidence for the 
existence of any of these hypothetical " pangenes " ; and 
increasing knowledge of the cellular details of fertilisation 
and development increased the difficulty of believing in them. 

Then came Weismann's insistence on the distinctness of 
the body plasm and the reproductive plasm and the doctrine 
that the reproductive plasm formed a unicellar chain on 
which the individual lives hung as temporary pendants. His 
germ plasm rested on so large a body of visible evidence and 
joined so many hitherto discrete facts in apparent harmony 
that it gave a new direction to biological theory. Incident- 
ally, it appeared to put out of court the inheritance of 
acquired characters a view that was confirmed by careful 
examination of the rather vague evidence for this process. 
Darwin was out-Darwined, and the whole burden of evolu- 
tion was thrown upon the principle of natural selection. 

The exclusion of Lamarckian factors from evolution found 
no favour with many writers, whose chief interest in biology 
was its application to man, and to whom it seemed incredible 
that the influences of education and civilisation affected only 
the generation which experienced them. But it was also 
distasteful to some competent and experienced naturalists in 
France, America, and England, who continued to insist that 
natural selection was insufficient to explain the origin of 
species. Mr. J. T. Cunningham is one of the most persistent, 
ingenious, and well-informed of our " neo-Lamarckians." 
In his remarkably penetrating book on Hormones and Here- 
dity he claims to have been one of the first to see the possible 
bearing of the new physiological conception of " hormones " 
on the theory of heredity. It seems certain that every organ 
and tissue of the body liberates chemical messengers into 
the blood, and that these may have a profound influence on 
some organ or tissue far removed from their place of manu- 
facture. Hormones are not theoretical substances like pan- 
genes; they are definite chemical bodies which in many 
cases have been isolated and experimented with. Why, 
therefore, should not the hormones of an organ or tissue 
become modified when the organ or tissue acquires a new 
character at the stimulus of a new environment? 



Louis PASTEUR (1822 1895) came of simple country folk 
whose family had been for three generations tanners in the 
district of Dole in the Jura. The name is to be found in the 
old registers in the province of Franche-Comte as far back 
as the early seventeenth century. His great-grandfather 
was the first freeman in the family, for he bought himself 
out of serfdom with four gold pieces of twenty-four livres. 
Claude Etienne Pasteur desired to be freed and succeeded in 
achieving this at the age of thirty, as is witnessed by a deed, 
dated March 20, 1673, drawn up in the presence of the Royal 
notary, Claude Jarry. Messire Philippe-Marie-FranQois, 
Count of Udressier, Lord of Ecleux, Cramans, Lemuy, and 
other places, consented " by special grace " to free Claude 
Etienne Pasteur, a tanner, of Salins, his serf. The deed 
stipulated that Claude Etienne and his unborn posterity 
should henceforth be enfranchised from the stain of mort- 

Louis Pasteur's father, Jean Joseph, as a young man had 
been one of Napoleon's conscripts and had won the Cross of 
the Legion of Honour on the field of battle, for valour and 
fidelity. Jean Joseph attained the rank of sergeant in the 
3rd Regiment, called " the brave among the brave/' Though 
carefully brought up, he was without much learning. To 
be able to read the Emperor's bulletins in those days was con- 
sidered ample for a man in his position in life. In later 
years he painted on an inner door of his house a soldier 
in an old uniform pausing in his digging to lean on his spade 
and dream of past glories. For him, as for so many other 

* There is an admirable biography of Pasteur by Rene Vallery-Radot, 
and I feel much indebted to it. There is an excellent translation of it 
by Mrs. Downshire. M. Vallery-Radot is Pasteur's son-in-law. 



Frenchmen, Napoleon had been a demi-god. On the 
resumption of his work in the tannery after the conclusion 
of peace in 1815, he came to know a family of gardeners. 
His tannery stood on the bank of the river Furieuse, and 
from the steps leading to the water he used to watch a young 
girl working in the garden at early dawn. She soon per- 
ceived that the old soldier of twenty-five was interested in 
her every movement. Her name was Jeanne Etiennette 
Roqui, a native of Marnot, a village about four kilometres 
from Salins. Like the Pasteurs, the Roquis came of old yet 
humble stock and of such warm affections that " to love like 
the Roqui " was a local saying. In 1815 they married, and 
on December 27, 1822, their son Louis was born. He at 
first attended the Ecole Primaire, attached to the college of 
Arbois. He in no wise distinguished himself, belonging 
merely to the category of good average pupils. He liked 
drawing and he liked fishing, but he did not extend his liking 
to lessons. His patriotism was kindled by such stories of 
local patriotism as the siege of Arbois under Henry IV, when 
the Arboisians held out for three whole days against a 
besieging army of 25,000. Though his father's language 
and manners were retiring, the lad felt impressed by his regu- 
lar walk on Sundays. Then the sergeant, wearing a military- 
looking frock coat, spotlessly clean and adorned with the 
showy ribbon of the Legion of Honour it was then worn 
very large invariably walked out towards the road from 
Arbois to Besan^on. Patriotism spelt duty for the father 
and it came to spell the same for the son. 

The headmaster of Arbois college, M. Romanet, was the 
first to discover that hidden behind the face of his pupil there 
was genuine intelligence. The mind of the lad worked but 
slowly, for he could never bring himself to affirm anything 
of which he was not absolutely certain. Romanet, during 
their strolls around the college playground, tried to awaken 
the leading qualities of the boy's nature. He succeeded in 
firing him with the desire of going to the Ecole Normale, 
there to prepare himself to become a " professor," as school- 
masters are called in France. This Ecole Normale Supe- 
rieure was a training college, and candidates for it had to be 
between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one and be already 
Bachelors of Letters or of Science. 


At the end of October 1838 he accompanied his dear 
school friend, Jules Vercel, to Paris to work for his " bacca- 
laureat." The wrench of leaving home and his loved Jura 
proved too much for the boy of sixteen. When he arrived 
in Paris he was far from sympathising with Balzac's student 
hero, confidently defying the great city. The nostalgia so 
persisted that he avowed to Jules Vercel, " If I could only 
get a whiff of the tannery yard, I feel I should be cured." 
He was not, however, cured, and his father came after a 
month's struggle to take him home. To the Arbois college 
he returned, and on recovering from his home-sickness he 
settled down to read, grasping the fact that his education 
imposed a stiff charge on the family funds. As there was 
no " philosophy " class at the college at Arbois, he made up 
his mind to go to the college at Besan^on only twenty-five 
miles from home where he could continue his studies, pass 
his " baccalaureat," and then prepare for his examinations of 
the Ecole Normale. 

Besangon owned the Royal College of Franche-Comte, 
and on his arrival there Pasteur found that the science 
master, M. Darlay, was nothing like so good as the philo- 
sophy master, M. Daunas. As Pasteur grew interested in 
his science work, he asked questions that proved embarras- 
sing to M. Darlay. He disapproved of saying, " I don't 
know/' and used to try to keep his pupil in his place by 
telling him that questions were to be asked by the teacher, 
not by the scholar. On August 29, 1840, he took the degree 
of " bachelier es lettres " with no particular brilliancy. The 
three examiners, doctors " es lettres/' put down his answers 
as " good in Greek on Plutarch and in Latin on Virgil, good 
also in rhetoric, medicine, history, and geography, good in 
philosophy, very good in elementary science, good in French 
composition/' * 

The character more than the degree of the young bachelor 
had impressed the college authorities, for at the end of the 
summer holidays the headmaster of the Royal College, M. 
Repecaud, offered him the post of preparation master, and 
the offer was gratefully accepted. For this work, as he 
boasted proudly to his parents, he received beside his board 
and lodging 300 francs a year. To his sisters at home he 

* R. Vallery-Radot, Life of Pasteur, p. 14. 


wrote : " Let me tell you again, work hard, love each other. 
When one is accustomed to work it is impossible to do with- 
out it : beside, everything else in this world depends on that. 
Armed with science, one can rise above all one's fellows." * 
At another time he wants to pay for the education of his 
little sisters, saying that he can easily do it by giving private 
lessons. This he had already been asked to do at the rate of 
20 to 25 francs a month. His parents sensibly would not 
listen to his making this sacrifice, but wanted instead to give 
him a small allowance for extra coaching for himself. 

If the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts, the 
friends of youth are long, long friends. Michelet, in his recol- 
lections, tells of the hours of intimacy he enjoyed with a 
college friend named Poinsat, and thus expresses himself: 
" It was an immense, an insatiable longing for confidences, 
for mutual revelations. " What Mutianus meant to his 
circle of admirers, what Melanchthon meant to Camerarius, 
what Montaigne meant to La Boetie, what Goethe meant to 
Schiller, what Bliicher meant to Gneisenau, Pasteur meant to 
Charles Chappuis, a fellow-student of the BesanQon college. 
Save sympathy in scientific taste, everything else that friend- 
ship can give in generous strength and in brotherly confi- 
dences, everything that, according to Montaigne who knew 
more about it than even Michelet, in spite of his ardent friend- 
ship for Quinet " makes souls merge into each other so that 
the seam which originally joined them disappears," Pasteur 
and Chappuis felt for each other. Of all the gifts that col- 
lege life affords, this gift of ardent interchange of ideas is 
the most valuable. To treat the masters of literature with 
or without the deference that is justly theirs, to elevate a 
minor poet of one's own discovery to their rank, to criticise 
all and sundry to one's heart's content what joys of after- 
days can rival these? Does any man, to the end of the 
longest life, ever forget that proud and happy day when he 
first met his other self at college? There have been later 
successes other first days, memorable in their way. The 
first day to make a scientific discovery, f the first on the 
Bench, the first speech in the House, the first command in 

* R. Vallery-Radot, Life of Pasteur, p. 14. 

t Pasteur's first scientific joy was to extract sixty grammes of phos- 
phorus from bones, Cf. R. Vallery-Radot, Life of Pasteur, p. 31. 


the field but the couleitr de rose had paled by that time. 
There is no colouring so bright as the long-faded colours of 
those wonderful early days! Who does not look back on 
them, realising only when they are long past how happy they 
were ? One is very much wiser now, and richer, and, maybe, 
has reached the highest round of the ladder; but who does 
not remember the daisies that grew around the foot when 
one was climbing that lowest rung! Ah, but the old days 
were the best! So Pasteur and Chappuis believed, and, at 
any rate, so they experienced. With Chappuis he exchanged 
his thoughts and his ideals, and together they mapped out, 
with the happy confidence of youth, a life together. When 
Chappuis set out for Paris, the better to prepare himself for 
the Ecole Normale, Pasteur longed to set out with him. 
Chappuis wrote to him with that open spontaneity which 
forms such a charm of youth, " I shall feel as if I had all my 
Franche-Comte with me when you are here." Fearing a 
crisis like that of 1838, Pasteur's father, after some hesita- 
tion, refused his consent to an immediate departure. " Next 
year/' he said. 

Though master at the Royal College of Besangon, Pasteur 
never ceased to be a student, even to the last day he lived. 
In October 1841 he resumed his attendance of the classes for 
special mathematics. But he was constantly thinking of 
Paris, " where study is deeper," and where Chappuis was. 
" If I do not pass this year," he wrote to his father on 
November 7, " I think I should do well to go to Paris for a 
year. But there is time to think of that and of the means 
of doing so without spending too much, if the occasion 
should arise. I see now what great advantage there is in 
giving two years to mathematics ; everything becomes clearer 
and easier. Of all our class students who tried this year for 
the Ecole Polytechnique and the Ecole Normale, not a single 
one has passed, not even the best of them, a student who 
had already done one year's mathematics at Lyons." * 

Dry and exhausting as the young student found mathe- 
matics, he persevered with his studies. In spite of his appli- 
cation he passed even less brilliantly his examination, before 
the Dijon faculty on August 13, 1842, for the baccalaureat 
es sciences than he had passed the baccalaureat es lettres. In 

* R. Vallery-Radot, Life of Pasteur, p. 19. 


chemistry the examiners reported that he was simply 
" mediocre/' Nor is there any reason to think that this 
report was not a correct one. For on August 26 when he 
entered the examination for admission to the Ecole Normale, 
he was only fifteenth out of twenty-two candidates. This 
place he considered too low, and he resolved to try again the 
following year. In order to redeem himself, he determined 
at last to set out for Paris, and this time his father con- 
sented. In company with Chappuis in October 1842 he 
arrived at the Barbet Boarding School, and the arrangement 
was that he only paid one-third of the pupil's fees, and in 
return he had to give the younger pupils some instruction 
in mathematics every morning from six to seven. " Do not 
be anxious about my health and work/' he wrote to his 
friends a few days after his arrival, " I need hardly get up 
till 5.45 ; you see it is not so very early. ... I shall spend 
my Thursdays in a neighbouring library with Chappuis, who 
has four hours to himself on that day. On Sundays we 
shall walk and work a little together; we hope to do some 
philosophy on Sundays, perhaps too on Thursdays ; I shall 
also read some literary works. Surely you must see that I 
am not homesick this time." * Of all his new acquaintances 
there was none like Chappuis, who believed in those far-off 
days that his friend was bound to make his mark. " You 
will see what Pasteur will be," so he used to say and so he 
always maintained. 

There were fine lecturers at the Ecole Normale and at the 
Sorbonne, and among the finest was Balard, the discoverer 
of bromine, and J. B. Dumas, a man with magnetic powers of 
attraction exercised over his students. Balard and Dumas 
had both begun life as pupils of an apothecary, and Dumas 
was wont to say in his grand manner, " Balard and I were 
initiated into our scientific life under the same condition." 
At the Sorbonne Dumas commanded an audience of six to 
seven hundred people, and there was a great deal of applause 
at his lectures. Dumas's allusions to science in other depart- 
ments as well as his own chemical one seemed to open the 
doors to Pasteur into all sorts of roomy and spacious labora- 
tories. It used to seem to him that Dumas habitually lived 
in a world that was bigger, brighter, and more entertaining 
* R. Vallery-Radot, Life of Pasteur, p. 21. 


than the ordinary world. Dumas was able to bring, like the 
wise householder, out of his chemical and other treasures 
things old and new ; and Pasteur came to feel that he would 
like to have similar treasures in the background too. 

Inspired by such really great chemists as Balard and 
Dumas, Pasteur began to do better even in his examinations. 
At the end of 1843 he took at the Lycee St. Louis two acces- 
sits and one first prize in physics, and at the Concours 
General, an open competition held every year at the Sorbonne 
between the elite of the students of all the colleges in France, 
he won a sixth accessit in physics. At last he was admitted 
fourth on the list to the Ecole Normale. As a small token 
of his gratitude for past kindness, he offered to M. Barbet 
to give some lessons at the school of the Impasse des Feuil- 
lantines. " There is nothing more easy," Pasteur thought 
with that simpleness of character that invariably distin- 
guished him, " than to come regularly at six o'clock on Thurs- 
days and give the schoolboys a physical science class." * " I 
am very pleased," wrote his father, " that you are giving 
lessons at M. Barbet's. He has been so kind to us that I was 
anxious that you should show some gratitude; be therefore 
always most obliging towards him. You should do so, not 
only for your own sake, but for others'; it will encourage 
him to show the same kindness to other studious young men, 
whose future might depend upon it." * The only matter 
that worried the father was that his son would work so im- 
moderately. Writing to Chappuis, Joseph Pasteur begged 
him: " Do tell Louis not to work so much; it is not good 
to strain one's brain. That is not the way to succeed but to 
compromise one's health."* In another letter of December 
1843, to hi s son this time, he writes : " Tell Chappuis that I 
have bottled some 1834 bought on purpose to drink the health 
of the Ecole Normale during the next holidays. There is 
more within those 100 litres than in all the books on philo- 
sophy in the world; but as to mathematical formulae, there 
are none, I believe. Mind you tell him that we shall drink 
the first bottle with him. Remain two good friends." * 
That Pasteur had a genius for friendship is obvious, for he 
owned the patience and the powers of trust such a genius 
implies. The letters between father and son reveal full con- 
* R. Vallery-Radot, Life of Pasteur, p. 23. 


fidence between them, so that Louis's own judgment was 
fostered, and his humour had free play. If it is a healthy 
home where the young and the old share the same joke, it 
is a no less healthy home where the old welcome the friends 
of the young, and such a home was Pasteur's. 

Inspired by his teachers, Pasteur felt this impulse as he 
perused the biographies of either great scientists or great 
patriots, for few have loved " la patrie " as he loved it. 
There was always the impulse to research to be derived from 
men like Balard and Dumas. Was there a better way of 
spending a holiday than to be shut up the whole afternoon at 
the Sorbonne laboratory? Chappuis half-loved and half- 
feared this ardour of mind. Anxious to obey the injunc- 
tions of his friend's father, " Do not let him work too 
much ! " he used to wait patiently if not philosophically 
sitting on a laboratory stool, until the experiments were 
finished for the time being. Conquered by the reproachful 
silence no less than by his patient attitude, Pasteur would 
take off his apron, saying half-angrily yet half-gratefully, 
" Well, let us go for a walk! " Just as nothing else thrives 
when a man is absorbed in a piece of work, so the conversa- 
tion between the two languished when it turned in the 
direction of philosophy. But when it turned in the direction 
of science that was a totally different matter! 

When Sir James Paget was only nineteen he discovered 
the Trichina spiralis* Dr. Cobbold has told the story of the 
several steps leading to the discovery and following it, in his 
work on the Entozoa. Paget's share was the detection of 
the " worm " in its capsule ; and he justly ascribes it to the 
habit of looking-out, and observing, and wishing to find new 
things, powers he had acquired in his previous study of 
botany. All the men in the dissecting-rooms, teachers in- 
cluded, " saw " the little specks in the muscles : but Paget 
alone " looked at " them and " observed " them. He notes 
that no one trained in natural history could have failed to 
do so, but all up to his time had so failed. When Thomas 
Henry Huxley was also only nineteen he discovered a 
hitherto undiscovered membrane in the root of the human 

* S. Paget, Memoirs and Letters of Sir J. Paget, p. 55. May I com- 
mend this extremely fine book? It is one of the most enjoyable bio- 
graphies I know. 


hair, which received the name of Huxley's layer, and this 
was the only discovery Huxley ever succeeded in making.* 
Not long after these two discoveries Pasteur was conducting 
investigations that were to lead to his first discovery. The 
first observations on the fact that for every compound which 
possesses the power of turning the plane of polarisation to 
the right, there is another which, while possessing the same 
composition, rotates equally to the left was beginning to 
occur to him while he was working in the wretchedly-equipped 
laboratory of the Sorbonne. 

There are two saline combinations, tartrate and paratar- 
trate of soda and ammonia, and in these two substances of 
similar crystalline form, the nature and number of the atoms 
and their distances are the same. The problem was to ascer- 
tain why dissolved tartrate rotates the plane of polarised 
light and paratartrate remains inactive. Mitscherlich and Biot 
had been puzzled by this curious difference, and it was now 
the turn of Pasteur to be also puzzled. Chappuis was then 
absorbed in the series of lectures on philosophy given by 
Jules Simon, but he was plainly affected when he saw his 
friend so upset by the optical inactivity of paratartrate. In 
the meantime Pasteur was writing his thesis for his doctorate 
on the applications of crystallography and physics to chemical 
problems. While labouring at this thesis, he was most 
anxious to turn aside to the behaviour of paratartrate. The 
father here at least proved wiser than the son. " Before 
being captain," thought the old sergeant-major, " you must 
become lieutenant. " Accordingly Louis returned to his 
thesis on " The Phenomena relative to the Rotary Polarisa- 
tion of Liquids/' and duly won his doctorate in 1847. 

At the end of 1846 a newcomer entered Balard's labora- 
tory, which was as poorly equipped as that at the Sorbonne, 
and this man was Auguste Laurent, poet as well as scientist. 
Laurent asked Pasteur to assist him with his experiments, 
and Pasteur was so delighted with this proposed collaboration 
that he wrote at once to Chappuis to tell him of it. Though 
Laurent went off to the Sorbonne to become the assistant 
of Dumas, Pasteur continued his researches. On March 20, 
1848, he read before the Academic des Sciences a portion of 
his paper on " Researches on Dimorphism." Some sub- 
* L. Huxley, Life and Letters of T. H. Huxley, I, p. 21. 


stances crystallise in two different ways. Sulphur, for 
instance, gives quite dissimilar crystals according as it is 
melted in a crucible or dissolved in sulphide of carbon, and a 
substance like it is termed dimorphous. 

In the midst of his labours the Revolution of 1848 broke 
out, as European a Revolution as the memorable one of 1789. 
La patrie always moved the inmost fibre of his very being. 
On the spot he enrolled with his fellow-students. " What 
a transformation of our whole being," has written one who 
was then a candidate to the Ecole Normale, already noted by 
his masters for his sound sense, Francisque Sarcey. " How 
those magical words of liberty and fraternity, this renewal 
of the Republic, born in the sunshine of our twentieth year, 
filled our hearts with unknown and absolutely delicious sensa- 
tions ! With what a gallant joy we embraced the sweet and 
superb image of a people of free men and brethren! The 
whole nation was moved as we were; like us, it had drunk 
of the intoxicating cup. The honey of eloquence flowed un- 
ceasingly from the lips of a great poet, and France believed, 
in childlike faith, that his word was efficacious to destroy 
abuses, cure evils, and soothe sorrows. " One day when 
Pasteur was crossing the Place du Pantheon he saw a gather- 
ing crowd around a wooden erection, inscribed with the 
magic words : " Autel de la Patrie." With more patriotism 
than prudence, he hurried back to the Ecole Normale and 
emptied all his hard-won savings into the Autel. " You say," 
wrote his father on April 28, 1848, " that you have offered to 
France all your savings, amounting to 1 50 francs. You have 
probably kept a receipt of the office where this payment was 
made, with mention of the date and place? " And consider- 
ing that this action should be made known, he advised him to 
publish it in the journal Le National or La Reforme in the 
following terms : " Gift to the Patrie : 150 francs, by the son 
of an old soldier of the Empire, Louis Pasteur of the Ecole 

From the days of 1848 for the moment we gaze ahead to 
the disastrous ones of 1871, and we experience no difficulty 
in grasping the emotions of Pasteur when he saw the terms 
the Germans forced on his beloved land in 1871. Men who 
feel inclined to commiserate the Germans in their plight in 
the Treaty of Versailles of 1919 are invited to turn their 


attention to the Treaty of 1871. The feelings that inspired 
Napoleon when he understood the work of Jenner were not 
the feelings of Bismarck when he understood the work of 
Pasteur if ever he understood it. Just as the German 
artillery battered down the Cathedral of Rheims, so the Ger- 
man artillery fired on the Pantheon and other non-warlike 
buildings in Paris. 

On January 9, 1871, Chevreul read the following declara- 
tion to the Academic des Sciences: 

The Garden of Medicinal Plants, founded in Paris 
by an edict of King Louis XIII, 

dated January 1826, 

Converted into the Museum of Natural History 
by a decree of the Convention on June 10, 1793, 

was Bombarded, 

under the reign of Wilhelm I, King of 
Prussia, Count von Bismarck, Chancellor, 
by the Prussian Army, during the night 

of January 8-9, 1871. 

It had until then been respected by all parties 

and all powers, national or 


When Pasteur read this protest, his regret that he had not 
been present to sign it was poignant. In 1868 the Univer- 
sity of Bonn had conferred upon him its honorary diploma 
of Doctor of Medicine, acknowledging that " by his very 
penetrating experiments, he had much contributed to the 
knowledge of the history of the generation of micro-organ- 
isms, and had happily advanced the progress of the science 
of fermentation." Naturally Pasteur had been proud to 
receive this diploma. 

" Now," he wrote on January 18, 1871, to the Head of 
the Faculty of Medicine, after recalling his former feelings 
of pride, " now the sight of that parchment is odious to me, 
and I feel offended at seeing my name, with the qualification 
of Virum clarissimum that you have given it, placed under 
a name which is henceforth an object of execration to my 
country, that of Rex Gulielmus. 

" While highly asseverating my profound respect for you, 
Sir, and for the celebrated professors who have affixed their 
signatures to the decision of the members of your Order, I am 
called upon by my conscience to ask you to efface my name 
from the archives of your Faculty, and to take back that 


diploma, as a sign of the indignation inspired in a French 
scientist by the barbarity and hypocrisy of him who, in order 
to satisfy his criminal pride, persists in the massacre of two 
great nations." Pasteur's protest ended with these words: 
" Written at Arbois (Jura) on January 18, 1871, after read- 
ing the mark of infamy inscribed on the forehead of your 
King by the illustrious director of the Museum of Natural 
History, M. Chevreul." 

" This letter/' thought its writer, " will not have much 
weight with a people whose principles differ so totally from 
those which inspire us, but it will at least echo the indignation 
of the French scientists." * 

That the great scientist is also a great artist we hold to be 
indubitable truth. Man has a heart as well as a head. Like 
many another great man, Pasteur thought through his feel- 
ings as well as through his brain. " La coeur a ses raisons," 
wrote Blaise Pascal in a pregnant saying, " que la raison ne 
connoit pas," f and the saying is eminently true of Pasteur. 
How deeply the calamities of his country stirred him is clear 
in his letter of September 17, 1870, to his pupil Raulin: 
" What folly, what blindness, there are in the inertia of 
Austria, Russia, England! What ignorance in our army 
leaders of the respective forces of the two nations! The 
real cause of our misfortunes lies there. It is not with 
impunity as it will one day be recognised, too late that a 
great nation is allowed to lose its intellectual standard. But, 
as you say, if we rise again from these disasters, we shall 
again see our statesmen lose themselves in endless discussions 
on forms of government and abstract political questions, 
instead of going to the root of the matter. We are paying 
the penalty of fifty years' forgetfulness of science, of its 
conditions of development, of its immense influence on the 
destiny of a great people, and of all that might have assisted 
the diffusion of light. ... I cannot go on, all this hurts me. 
I try to put away all such memories, and also the sight of 
our terrible distress, in which it seems that a desperate resist- 
ance is the only hope we have left. I wish that France may 
fight to her last man, to her last fortress. I wish that the 
war may be prolonged until the winter, when, the elements 

* R. Vallery-Radot, Life of Pasteur, p. 190. 
t Pensees, p. 32 (1829 ed.). 


aiding us, all these Vandals may perish of cold and distress. 
Every one of my future works will bear on its title-page the 
words : ' Hatred to Prussia. Revenge! Revenge! ' " * 

Unfortunately Pasteur did not live to see the glories won 
by his countrymen in the World War of 1914 1918. The 
bitter memories of 1870-1 were to be washed in the waters 
of Lethe by the experiences of 1914-18. We, however, 
return to the Revolution of 1848. After its days of 
national exultation, Pasteur turned once more to his 
crystals. Influenced by certain ideas, he considered that 
some objects, placed before a mirror, give an image which 
can be superposed to them. These, like a chair, possess a 
symmetrical plan. Other objects, placed before a mirror, 
give an image which cannot be superposed to them. These, 
like a spiral staircase, possess a dissymmetrical plan. If it 
turns to the right, its image turns to the left. Pasteur 
noticed that the crystals of tartaric acid and the tartrates 
had little faces, a matter that had escaped Mitscherlich. 
These faces, which only existed on one half of the edges or 
similar angles, constituted a hemihedral form. When the 
crystal was placed before a mirror the image that appeared 
could not be superposed to the crystal ; the comparison of the 
spiral staircase was applicable to it. Pasteur proceeded to 
think that this aspect of the crystal might be an index of what 
existed within the molecules, dissymmetry of form corre- 
sponding with molecular dissymmetry. Clearly the deviation 
to the right of the plane of polarisation produced by tartrate 
and the optical neutrality of paratartrates could be explained 
by a structural law. All the crystals of tartrate proved to 
be hemihedral. 

The next stage in the experiment was to examine the crys- 
tals of paratartrate. They, so he reasoned, could not' be 
hemihedral. As a matter of fact, they were. Keenly dis- 
appointed, he cast about for a fresh explanation of the new 
difficulty, and he at last found it. Were not some of the 
faces of the crystal inclined to the right and others 
to the left? Here was food for thought. It then 
occurred to him to take up these crystals one by 
one and sort them carefully, putting on the one side 
those which turned to the left, and on the other those 

* R. Vallery-Radot, Life of Pasteur, p. 183. 


which turned to the right. He thought that by observing 
their respective solutions in the polarising apparatus, the 
two contrary hemihedral forms would give two contrary 
deviations. Then, by mixing together an equal number of 
each kind, the resulting solution would produce no action 
upon light, the two equal and directly opposite deviations 
exactly neutralising each other. 

With beating heart he proceeded to carry out his experi- 
ment with the polarising apparatus and exclaimed with fer- 
vour, " I have it! " In his excitement he rushed out of his 
laboratory, not unlike Archimedes, embracing the first man 
he met in the corridor, the curator, Bertrand, as he would 
have embraced Chappuis. He dragged the puzzled curator 
out to the Luxembourg garden to explain his discovery. He 
had found out the relations between the crystalline forms of 
the several tartaric acids, and their action on polarised light 
led him to perceive the necessity of some kind of theory to 
account for the internal structure of the molecules of such 
compounds. If the atoms composing the molecule in one of 
such a pair of compounds be conceived as arranged in a 
particular order, then the atoms in the other must be 
arranged in the same order but inversely, so that if the atoms 
could be made visible they would be seen to exhibit the rela- 
tion of an object to its image in a mirror. Twenty years 
after Pasteur's discovery in 1848 the subject again attracted 
attention, and after the study of lactic acids by Wislicenus, 
a theory was put forward, by the Dutch chemist van't Hoff 
and the French chemist Le Bel, which provided the neces- 
sary clue, and provided the basis for that large department of 
chemistry we to-day know as stereo-chemistry, or chemistry 
in space. 

The mystery of the inactivity of paratartrates was a mys- 
tery no more. " How often/' he wrote to Chappuis on May 
5, 1848, as he thought of the difficulty of explaining his dis- 
covery, " how often have I regretted that we did not both 
take up the same study, that of physical science. We who 
so often talked of the future, we did not understand. What 
splendid work we could have undertaken and would be under- 
taking now ; and what could we not have done united by the 
same ideas, the same love of science, the same ambition. I 
would we were twenty and with the three years of the Ecole 


before us." Yes, the old days were the happy days, even if 
" we who so often talked of the future, we did not under- 
stand." J. B. Biot was seventy-four when he heard of this 
discovery, affording mankind a first glimpse of molecular 
construction. During thirty years he had investigated the 
phenomena of rotatory polarisation, and his satisfaction was 
deep when he verified the results of a young man of twenty- 

Mankind remembers Pasteur largely for his memorable 
labours on micro-organisms, and it might seem at first sight 
as if the inactivity of paratartrate was far removed from it. 
Yet his researches on this very matter were logically as well 
as actually connected with his practical researches on fermen- 
tation. He had examined racemic or paratartaric acid, 
which resembles tartaric acid in chemical composition, but 
has a different crystalline form and is as optically inactive as 
paratartrate. One hot summer day he noted in his laboratory 
that a tartrate solution had begun to ferment. Instead of 
throwing it away he examined it in the spirit of Faraday, 
who, when asked how he made so many discoveries, 
answered, " By always inspecting the refuse of my experi- 
ments." Similarly, Pasteur inspected his refuse, and it 
suggested to him the question, Would fermentation exercise 
any effect on racemic acid? To solve this problem, he set 
up fermentation in a racemate, ascertaining that the inactive 
liquid gradually became as a result optically active. Fermen- 
tation, in fact, separated the two active constituents, destroy- 
ing the one and leaving the other. This discovery, in turn, 
led on to his wonderful work of fermentation. The study 
of one form of asymmetrical molecules led to the examination 
of another form of such molecules. He had found that the 
rotary power of a body disappeared when that body was 
chemically broken up, and that life alone seemed to be capable 
of producing new asymmetrical molecules. Step by step he 
had found experimental verification for the new ideas which 
his work on crystals had introduced into fermentation. He 
had reached the empirical construction of a solution contain- 
ing only mineral substance and ammonia, in which yeast 
would grow and would begin to set up alcoholic fermenta- 
tion. Fermentation was therefore due to the action of 
a living organism. We set out with racemic or paratartaric 


acid, and we end or do we end? with the epoch-making 
experiments on micro-organisms. At first sight the con- 
nection is remote, but of its reality no one can doubt. It is a 
tale that has been repeated again and again in the annals 
of science. What is the connection between the twitching 
legs of Galvani's frog and the flicking needle of the tele- 
graph? What is the connection between Oersted in 1822 
deflecting a magnetised needle and the electric telegraph? 
What is the connection between the walks of William Smith, 
the father of geology, and the finding of our mineral re- 
sources ? What is the connection between the highly abstract 
work of Lagrange in mathematics and wireless telegraphy? 
What is the connection between Lord Kelvin's stiff piece of 
mathematical analysis, published in 1853, and the study of 
electric oscillations that led to the invention of wireless tele- 
graphy? What is the connection between the discovery of 
Sir William Crookes in 1892 that a strong electric current 
produced nitrous and nitric acids and the fixation of nitrogen 
which enabled Germany to prolong the War ? What is the 
connection between the dyes of Perkin and the industrial 
predominance of Germany before and since the War? What 
is the connection between the knowledge gained by the zoolo- 
gists when they counted the hairs on the backs of flies and 
quarrelled over the specific distinctions between one gnat and 
another and the opening up of tropical Africa or the comple- 
tion of the Panama Canal ? The truth is, as Pasteur was to 
demonstrate in a hundred different ways, no generalisation 
of science is really remote from any other generalisation. If 
it appears to be remote, to-day or to-morrow may give birth 
to the wide conception that will unite such generalisations. 
At the end of the summer of 1848 Pasteur was appointed 
Professor of Physics at the Dijon Lycee. The Minister of 
Public Instruction, at the request of Biot, consented to allow 
him to postpone his departure in order to let him finish some 
work. His appointment came as a real blow to Biot. " If 
at least/' he indignantly remarked, " they were sending you 
to a Faculty ! " He turned his wrath on to the Government 
officials. " They don't seem to realise that such labours stand 
above everything else. If they only knew it, two or three 
such treatises might bring a man straight to the Institut ! " * 
* R. Vallery-Radot, Life of Pasteur, p. 43. 


In spite of this outburst, Pasteur had to go. He wrote to 
Chappuis on November 20, 1848: " I find that preparing my 
lessons takes up a great deal of time. It is only when I 
have prepared a lecture very carefully that I succeed in 
making it very clear and capable of compelling attention. 
If I neglect it at ^11 I lecture badly and become un- 
intelligible." * His two classes of first- and second- 
year pupils engrossed all his time and all his strength, 
and the outcome was that he could not possibly pursue 
his favourite studies. Biot appealed to Baron Thenard, 
who was Chairman of the Grand Council of the Uni- 
versity, and in 1849 Pasteur became Professor of Chemistry 
at Strasburg. The new Professor met the Rector of the 
Academy of Strasburg, M. Laurent, and within a fortnight 
of meeting his daughter Marie he proposed marriage to her. 
He was so deeply in love with her that he forsook his labora- 
tory " I," he remorsefully adds, " who did so love my crys- 
tals." " I believe/' he confided in Chappuis, " that I shall 
be very happy. Every quality I could wish for in a wife I 
find in her. You will say, ' He is in love ! ' Yes, but I do 
not think I exaggerate at all, and my sister Josephine quite 
agrees with me."f The union of the two lovers proved 
ideally happy, though there is a story that on the wedding 
day the bridegroom was so wrapped up in his experiments 
that he entirely forgot the ceremony and had to be fetched by 
a friend. " Why are you not a professor of physics or 
chemistry ? " he asked Chappuis. " We should work together, 
and in ten years' time we should revolutionise chemistry. 
There are wonders hidden in crystallisation, and, through it, 
the inmost construction of substances will one day be revealed. 
If you come to Strasburg, you shall become a chemist ; I shall 
talk to you of nothing but crystals." J Was Pasteur wiser 
than even he knew? For behind his solution of the mystery 
of racemic acid lay the first real glimpse of the construction 
of the molecule. By dint of amazing trouble he succeeded 
in transforming tartaric acid into racemic acid. He found 
that one of the salts of racemic acid, paratartrate or racemate 
of ammonia, for instance, in the ordinary conditions of fer- 

* R. Vallery-Radot, Life of Pasteur, p. 51. 
t Ibid., p. 44. 
t Ibid, p. 54- 


nentation, the dextro-tartaric acid alone ferments, the other 
remaining in the liquor. Why does the dextro-tartaric acid 
ilone become putrefied ? His answer was that the ferments 
}f that fermentation feed more easily on the right than on 
;he left molecules. By a wonderful coincidence, just at the 
/ery moment when his studies were bringing him more and 
nore to the problem of fermentation he was appointed Pro- 
fessor and Dean of the new Faculty of Science at Lille, the 
:ountry of distilleries, in September 1854. Here he opened 
i new chapter in the annals of science. 

In the summer of 1856 a Lille manufacturer, M. Bigo, 
:ame to the young Dean for advice. Bigo had met with 
jrave disappointment in the manufacture of beetroot alcohol. 
3n his return to his primitive laboratory, Pasteur examined 
he globules in the fermentation juice, compared filtered with 
mfiltered beetroot juice, and conceived hypothesis after hypo- 
hesis to explain the puzzling phenomena. A long line of 
ihemists had been trying to solve the problems of fermenta- 
ion and putrefaction. Lavoisier, Fabroni, Thenard, Gay- 
^ussac, Cagniard-Latour, Dumas, Berzelius, Schwann, 
Jebig, Helmholtz all had given time and thought to these 
lerplexing problems. It was now the turn of Pasteur to give 
hem his best attention. 

Men of the school of Liebig and Berzelius rejected the 
dea of an influence of life in the cause of fermentations. In 
hem Pasteur began to perceive phenomenon correlative to 
ife.* In lactic yeast he discerned the budding, multiplying 
ind offering the same phenomena of reproduction as beer 
reast. He showed that the yeast plant assumes different 
itages in the fermentation of wine, thereby demolishing the 
caching of Liebig which dominated the scientific world. He 
ecognised for the first time the presence of a micro-organism 
n connection with the process of lactic acid fermentation, 
rle showed that fermentation could be set up in vinegar by 
he addition of minute cultivations of the special organism 
connected with each particular process. He prepared a fluid 
consisting of a solution of sugar to which only mineral sub- 
;tances had been added, in which he could produce at will 
either the alcoholic or the lactic fermentation by inoculating 

* Here and elsewhere I am deeply indebted to chap, xii of Sir Rick- 
nan Godlee's fascinating biography of Lord Lister. 


it with the appropriate organism. Liebig persisted in re- 
garding the processes of decay, decomposition, and fermen- 
tation as purely physico-chemical in character. " Those 
who," he held, " attempt to explain the putrefaction of animal 
substances by the presence of animalcules, argue much in the 
same way as a child who imagines that he can explain the 
rapidity of the Rhine's flowing by attributing it to the violent 
agitation caused by the numerous water-wheels at Mayence." 

To Pasteur it seemed increasingly, on the other hand, that 
the living animalcules caused the phenomena he was rigidly 
investigating. Experiment after experiment confirmed the 
view of the French scientist. For a generation the old school 
fought against the new. That the new could show experi- 
ments that demonstrated the truth of their view mattered 
nothing. The old school persisted in holding that the 
chemical actions taking place during fermentation could only 
be explained in terms of molecular physics. Pasteur equally 
persisted in experimenting, and his experiments taught him 
that fermentation, putrefaction, decomposition, all are 
" acts of life, and in the absence of life do not take place." 
" A liquid really sterile, exposed to air really sterile, will 
remain sterile for ever/ 5 and in that condition will neither 
ferment nor putrefy. The truth is what Pasteur concisely 
stated : " La vie c'est le germe et le germe c'est la vie." 

This was by no means all. He had proved that the minute 
living things called animalcules caused it to break up into 
simpler compounds. He proceeded to demonstrate that cer- 
tain organisms grow, not in the presence of air, but in its 
absence. Such is the case with the organism which he 
described as associated with the butyric fermentation. He 
afterwards extended these observations and demonstrated that 
the butyric ferment is not an isolated example, but that there 
is a whole class of organisms which, though they cannot do 
without oxygen, are unable to flourish in the presence of free 
oxygen. They obtain their oxygen from the compounds of 
little stability which they decompose. This observation 
naturally led the investigator on to the study of putrefaction 
and to the development of a new theory of fermentation 
and decay. He determined the point that putrefaction does 
not occur independently of the agency of micro-organisms. 
As life was thought to be absolutely dependent on air for its 


maintenance, Pasteur's discovery of the possibility of an- 
aerobic life, which grows by the absence of air, was received 
with incredulity. Belief in the existence of the anaerobes 
aroused a storm of criticism and opposition on the part of 
Pasteur's contemporaries. 

The reply Pasteur made to the unbelief of scientists was 
to concentrate on his experiments. In December 1857 ^ ie 
recognised complex phenomena in alcoholic fermentation. 
The chemist had been content to say, So much sugar 
gives so much alcohol and so much carbonic acid. 
He wrote to the ever-loyal Chappuis in June 1858: 
" I find that alcoholic fermentation is constantly ac- 
companied by the production of glycerine; it is a very 
curious fact. For instance, in one litre of wine there are 
several grammes of that product which had not been sus- 
pected." * He also recognised the normal presence of suc- 
cinic acid in alcoholic fermentation. " I should be pursuing 
the consequences of these facts/' he adds, " if a temperature 
of 36 C. did not keep me from my laboratory. I regret to 
see the longest days in the year lost to me. Yet I have grown 
accustomed to my attic [i.e. his poor laboratory], and I 
should be sorry to leave it. Next holidays I hope to enlarge 
it. You too are struggling against material hindrances in 
your work; let it stimulate us, my dear fellow, and not dis- 
courage us. Our discoveries will have the greater merit." 

The link between many kinds of phenomena was the 
organism detected. Organisms produced fermentation and 
putrefaction. Organisms are carried on particles of dust 
floating in the atmosphere. These particles of dust can be 
destroyed by heat, or filtered off by cotton wool, or inter- 
cepted in the finely-drawn-out or tortuous necks of flasks, 
through which the free ingress and egress of air takes place 
owing to the diurnal variations in temperature. Conclusions 
of this nature shaped themselves in Pasteur's mind with that 
logical precision in which he delighted. 

Particles of dust carried the organisms in which he was 
interested. But these particles of dust differed in the degree 
of their abundance. They were as conspicuously present in 
a dusty room as they were- conspicuously absent in an 
undisturbed cellar or on a mountain top. Was air the cause 
* R. Vallery-Radot, Life of Pasteur, p. 85. 


of putrefaction? Was it not rather due to the presence of 
filtrable dust? Was not, in fact, the atmosphere the sole 
vehicle of all the harm done? This, of course, is not the 
case, but there was enough in it to set Pasteur thinking. It in 
no wise escaped him that germs not only people the air but are 
carried by it to all solid and liquid substances, and therefore 
will be found adherent to the hands of the experimenter, to 
the insides of bottles, to corks, and even to such unlikely 
materials as mercury, through which some were in the habit 
of passing their sterilised putrescible fluids and purified air. 
Along with all this the investigator proceeded to show that 
certain natural substances, such as blood and urine, are free 
from micro-organisms, and can be kept from decomposing 
for an indefinite length of time if received with proper pre- 
cautions into previously sterilised vessels. 

In fact, by varying the solution and the conditions of 
growth, Pasteur reached the conception of pure cultures, 
cultures in which only one kind of organism throve and one 
kind of fermentation took place. So he paved the way for 
the exact methods which turned brewing and the making of 
wines and vinegars into scientific industries. Above all, 
at the same time he rendered possible the vast progress which 
was to come in the transference of the new theories and 
methods of disease. For the preparation of culture media, 
the growth of pure cultures, and the possibility of associating 
particular organisms with particular diseases are the founda- 
tions of bacteriology. 

As Darwin found that under his hands all questions 
widened, so Pasteur under his found exactly the same. On 
February 7, 1860, he wrote to his father*: "You know I 
have always told you confidentially that time would see the 
growth of my researches on the molecular dissymmetry of 
natural organic products. Founded as they were on varied 
notions borrowed from divers branches of science crystal- 
lography, physics, and chemistry those studies could not be 
followed by most scientists so as to be fully understood. On 
this occasion I presented them in the aggregate with some 
clearness and power and every one was struck with their 

" It is not by their form that these two lectures have de- 
* R. Vallery-Radot, Life of Pasteur, p. 88, 


lighted my hearers, it is by their contents; it is the future 
reserved to those great results, so unexpected, and opening 
with such entirely new vistas of physiology. I have dared to 
say so, for at these heights all sense of personality disappears, 
and there only remains that sense of dignity which is ever 
inspired by true love of science. 

" God grant that by my persevering labours I may bring a 
little stone to the frail and ill-assured edifice of our know- 
ledge of those deep mysteries of Life and Death where all 
our intellects have so lamentably failed. 

" P.S. Yesterday I presented to the Academy my re- 
searches on spontaneous generation ; they seemed to produce 
a great sensation." 

The history of the question of spontaneous generation 
goes so far back as the classical writers.* Thales of Miletus 
thought animals came from moisture. Anaximander be- 
lieved life originated in inorganic mud. Aristotle and 
Lucretius, Virgil and Ovid, and Pliny all believe in it. Does 
not Virgil describe the way in which a swarm of bees can 
be made to originate from the rotting carcase of a young bull ? 
Taking over the Virgilian belief, our ancestors thought that if 
you put a piece of beef in the sun, and allowed it to putrefy, 
they conceived that the grubs which soon began to appear 
were the outcome of the action of a power of spontaneous 
generation which the beef contained. And they could pro- 
vide you with recipes for making various animal and 
vegetable preparations which would produce the particular 
kinds of animals you required. Thus Van Helmont 
(1577 1644), the Belgian physician, actually supplies a 
recipe for the spontaneous generation of the domestic mouse. 
His prescription consists in squeezing some soiled linen into 
the mouth of a vessel containing grains of wheat, where- 
upon, after the lapse of twenty-one days, thrice the mystic 
number seven, the wheat will be found to have been trans- 
formed into mice adult ones to boot, with both sexes equally 
represented! Some time later an Italian, Buonanni, 
announced a fact no less weird. Certain timberwood, he 
said, after rotting in the sea, produced worms which 

* J. Tyndall, " Spontaneous Generation " in Popular Science Monthly, 
XII, 1877, pp. 476-88, 591-604. 


engendered butterflies, and these butterflies became in their 
turn birds ! 

Harvey, the discoverer of the circulation of the blood, like 
his contemporaries believed in spontaneous generation. A 
less credulous Italian, Francesco Redi (1626 1698), studied 
the phenomena. In order to demonstrate that the worms 
found in rotten meat did not appear spontaneously, he placed 
a piece of gauze over the meat. Flies, attracted by the colour, 
deposited their eggs on the gauze. From these eggs were 
hatched the worms, which up to the time of the experiment 
had been supposed to begin life spontaneously in the flesh 
itself. He demonstrated the fact that life begins from life, 
and for a while his demonstration was remembered. A 
medical professor of Padua, Vallisneri (1661 1730), also 
recognised that the grub in a fruit is hatched from an egg 
deposited by an insect before the development of the fruit. 
Not becoming part of the mental stock of mankind, the work 
of Redi and Vallisneri was overtaken by oblivion. 

The microscope bolstered up this belief by disclosing to the 
gaze of men thousands of creatures, those infinitely small 
beings which appeared in rain-water as in any infusion 
of organic matter when exposed to the air. How could 
bodies capable of producing a million descendants in the 
course of less than forty-eight hours do so save by spon- 
taneous generation? Diderot was intrigued by the problem 
of evolution, and he was also intrigued by the kindred problem 
of spontaneous generation. " Does living matter/' he asked, 
" combine with living matter ? how ? and with what result ? 
And what about dead matter ?" Such questions appear in 
his Interpretation of Nature, which Comte, absurdly enough, 
placed beside Descartes's Discourse on Method and Bacon's 
Nomtm Organum. Still, it is startling in 1754 to find 
Diderot asking, What is the difference between living matter 
and dead? Does the energy of a living molecule vary by 
itself, or according to the quantity, the quality, the forms of 
the dead or living matter with which it is united ? Questions 
such as these are samples of what he thought philosophers 
might perhaps count worthy of discussion. 

About the time of Diderot two priests, one an Englishman, 
Needham, and the other an Italian, Spallanzani, took the 
subject up. Needham had studied with Buffon microscopic 


animalculse. The force which Needham found in matter, a 
force which is called productive or vegetative, he regarded 
in 1745 as charged with the formation of the organic world. 
Buffon explained this force by holding that there are certain 
primitive and incorruptible parts common to animals and 
vegetables. These organic molecules cast themselves into 
the moulds or shapes which constituted different beings. 
When one of those moulds was destroyed by death, the 
organic molecules became free. Ever active, they worked 
the putrefied matter, appropriating to themselves some raw 
particles, and forming by their reunion a multitude of little 
organised bodies. All these bodies, according to Buffon, 
only existed through spontaneous generation. 

Spallanzani studied in 1763 the infinitesimal beings through 
his microscope. Needham had affirmed that by enclosing 
putrescible matter in vases and by placing those vases on warm 
ashes, he produced animalcule. Spallanzani shrewdly sus- 
pected firstly that Needham had not exposed the vases to a 
sufficient degree of heat to kill the seeds which were inside; 
and secondly that seeds could readily have entered those vases 
and given birth to animalcule, for Needham had only closed 
his vases with cork stoppers, which are very porous. " I 
repeated the experiment with more accuracy/' wrote the Abbe 
Spallanzani : " I used hermetically sealed vases. I kept them 
for an hour in boiling water, and after having opened them 
and examined their contents within a reasonable time I found 
not the slightest trace of animalcuke, though I had examined 
with the microscope the infusions from nineteen different 
vases." It would seem as if Spallanzani had anticipated one 
of the most renowned of the experiments of Pasteur with 
results that would have satisfied the French investigator. 

Voltaire, after his wont, took an interest in this scientific 
dispute. In his Singularities of Nature, written in 1769, he 
laughed at Needham, whom he turned into an Irish Jesuit 
in order to amuse his readers. Jesting at this race of so- 
called eels which began in the gravy of boiled mutton, he 
said : " At once several philosophers exclaimed at the wonder 
and said, ' There is no germ ; all is made, all is regenerated 
by a vital force of nature/ ' Attraction/ said one. ' Organ- 
ised matter/ said another, ' they are organisable molecules 
which have found their casts/ Clever physicists were taken 


in by a Jesuit." In this effusion of Voltaire nothing 
remained of what he termed " the ridiculous mistake, the un- 
fortunate experiments of Needham, so triumphantly refuted 
by M. Spallanzani and rejected by whosoever has studied 
nature at all." " It is now demonstrated to sight and reason 
that there is no vegetable, no animal but has its own germ." 
In his Philosophic Dictionary, at the word God, he remarks, 
" It is very strange that men should deny a creator and yet 
attribute to themselves the power of creating eels/' 

It would seem as if the experiments of the Abbe Spallan- 
zani had proved that there was no such thing as spontaneous 
generation. Nor were his results suffered, like those of 
Abbot Mendel, to languish in the obscurity of a local 
scientific journal. Voltaire was as great a journalist as 
Jonathan Swift himself, and with the publicity given to 
Spallanzani's work in the Singularities of Nature, it might 
have been thought impossible that such a striking demonstra- 
tion either would or could have been forgotten. Forgotten it 
undoubtedly was. After all, sound requires atmosphere, 
and, for that matter, results require their atmosphere. If a 
Joseph II lived before his own proper age, it is no less true 
that the Abbe Spallanzani lived before the age when scientists 
were likely to listen to what he had carried out. 

The subject dropped in one form only to be revived in 
another. Experiments of course, in the eyes of men even 
in the middle of the nineteenth century, were rather absurd 
methods of demonstrating the truths of nature. A priori 
conceptions were a far more satisfactory fashion, so they 
believed. In 1846 a moralist called Ernest Bersot employed 
this plan when he wrote his book on Spiritualism : " The 
doctrine of spontaneous generation pleases simplicity-loving 
minds ; it leads them far beyond their own expectations. But 
ft is yet only a private opinion, and, were it recognised, its 
virtue would have to be limited and narrowed down to the 
production of a few inferior animals." 

On December 20, 1858, a correspondent of the Institut, 
M. Pouchet, Director of the Natural History Museum of 
Rouen, sent to the Academy of Sciences a " Note on 
Vegetable and Animal Proto-organisms spontaneously 
generated in Artificial Air and in Oxygen Gas." The note 
began thus : " At this time when, seconded by the progress 


of science, several naturalists are endeavouring to reduce the 
domain of spontaneous generation or even to deny its exist- 
ence altogether, I have undertaken a series of researches with 
the object of elucidating this vexed question." Declaring 
that he had taken excessive precautions to preserve his results 
from any cause of error, he showed apparently convincing 
experiments, demonstrating that organisms developed spon- 
taneously when hay which had been previously heated to a 
high temperature was introduced into the atmosphere of 
pure oxygen. In 1860 the French Academy offered a prize 
for a series of experiments that would tend towards a 
solution of a question that had occupied the attention of 
mankind since the days of the classical writers. 

The world of science discussed the whole question. Pasteur 
contented himself not with discussion but with tests of the 
results that M. Pouchet had claimed to be true, and therefore 
verifiable. At one of the extremities of the fa$ade of the 
Ecole Normale in Paris, on the same line as the doorkeeper's 
lodge, a pavilion had been built for the school architect and 
his clerk. Pasteur succeeded in obtaining possession of this 
small building, and transformed it into a laboratory which 
any student of our day would describe as totally inadequate. 
For four years he experimented, and en route made many 
discoveries. For example, he made clear the efficiency of a 
cotton- wool plug in the neck of a flask as a means of 
preventing the entrance of air germs, and he invented a flask 
with a long-drawn-out neck, known to the researcher as 
Pasteur's flask. It is easy to understand why so exact an 
experimenter should write to Pouchet that the results he had 
attained were " not founded on facts of a faultless exactitude. 
I think you are wrong, not in believing in spontaneous 
generation (for it is difficult in such a case not to have a 
preconceived idea), but in affirming the existence of spon- 
taneous generation. In experimental science it is always 
a mistake not to doubt when facts do not compel affirmation. 
... In my opinion, the question is whole and untouched 
by decisive proofs. What is there in air which provokes 
organisation? Are they germs? is it a solid? is it a fluid? 
is it a principle such as ozone? All this is unknown and 
invites experiment/' * 

* R. Vallery-Radot, Life of Pasteur, p. 94. 


The more he laboured in the laboratory, the more Pasteur 
became convinced that there is nothing in the air itself able 
to produce life, and he gradually came to the conclusion that 
it was the germs in the air that did the mischief. Such an 
idea was preposterous to Pouchet How many millions of 
loose eggs or spores, he derisively inquired, would then be 
contained in a cubic millimetre of atmospheric air if the 
Pasteurian hypothesis were true? He proceeded to advise 
investigators to accept the doctrine of spontaneous generation 
adopted of old by so many men of genius from the days of 
Aristotle downwards. Of course this is the argument of 
authority draped in scientific clothing, but it is authority 
emphatically that Pouchet invoked. 

Into a series of flasks of a capacity of 250 cubic centi- 
metres Pasteur introduced a putrescible liquid, such as yeast 
water, which he boiled. While the liquid was still boiling he 
closed, with an enameller's lamp, the pointed opening through 
which the steam had rushed out, taking with it all the air 
the vessel contained. If the air were pure, the contents of the 
flask remained pure. If the air were impure, the contents of 
the flask remained impure. On August 10, 1860, he wrote 
to Chappuis*: "I fear from your letter that you will not 
go to the Alps this year. . . . Besides the pleasure of having 
you for a guide, I had hoped to utilise your love of science by 
offering you the modest part of curator. It is by some study 
of air on heights afar from the habitations and vegetation 
that I want to conclude my work on so-called spontaneous 
generation. The real interest of that work for me lies in the 
connection of this subject with that of ferments which I 
shall take up again in November." He started for Arbois, 
taking with him seventy-three flasks. He opened twenty of 
them not very far from his father's old tannery on the road 
to Dole. Of those twenty vessels, opened some distance 
away from any dwelling, eight yielded organised bodies. 
He then walked on to Salins and climbed Mount Poupet, 
850 metres above sea-level. Out of the twenty vessels 
opened, only five were altered. Pasteur would have liked to 
charter a balloon in order to prove that the higher you go 
the fewer germs you will find, and that certain zones 
absolutely pure contain none at all. Instead, he ascended 
* R. Vallery-Radot, Life of Pasteur, p. 96. 


Montanvert at Chamonix. A mule carried the case of 
thirty-three vessels, followed very closely by Pasteur. The 
twenty flasks were brought to the Mer de Glace. Pasteur 
gathered the air with infinite precautions; he used to enjoy 
relating the details to those people who call everything easy 
after it has been found out. After tracing with a steel 
point a line on the glass, careful lest specks of dust should be- 
come a cause of error, he began by heating the neck and fine 
point of the bulb in the flame of the little spirit-lamp. Then 
raising the vessel above his head, he broke the point with 
steel nippers, the long ends of which had also been heated in 
order to burn the specks which might be on their surface. 
These would have been driven into the vessel by the quick 
inrush of the air. Of those twenty flasks, closed again 
immediately, only one was altered. "If all the results 
are compared that I have obtained until now," he wrote, on 
March 5, 1880, when relating this journey to the Academy, 
" it seems to me that it can be affirmed that the dusts sus- 
pended in atmospheric air are the exclusive origin, the 
necessary condition of life in infusions." * 

Bacon long ago reminded us that Saul set out to seek 
his father's asses, and instead of finding the asses he found 
a kingdom. It is a tale that is being constantly told in the 
realm of science. An investigator re-starts the old idea of 
spontaneous generation, and another investigator tries to seek 
the truth about the subject. He proves that there is no such 
thing as spontaneous generation, and incidentally he founds 
the brand-new subject of bacteriology. For Pasteur points 
out : " What would be most desirable would be to push those 
studies far enough to prepare the road for a serious research 
into the origin of various diseases." * It was dawning upon 
him that germs were not merely the active cause of putre- 
faction and of fermentation, but they were also the active 
cause of disease. Such was the far-reaching result of an 
attempt to discover the validity of the belief in spontaneous 
generation. The Pasteurisation of wine or of milk, the 
process of sterilisation, Listerism, and a thousand other -isms, 
all date their origin from these renowned results. Yet in 
1860 a scientist could write in La Presse: " I am afraid that 
the experiments you quote, M. Pasteur, will turn against you 
* R. Vallery-Radot, Life of Pasteur, p. 98. 


. . . The world into which you wish to take us is really 
too fantastic. . . ." * 

There was a vacancy in the Institut in 1861, 
and despite the efforts of Balard and Dumas the votes of 
the members elected Duchartre, not Pasteur. The follow- 
ing year he was elected on December 8, receiving thirty-six 
votes out of sixty. Biot did not live to see this outcome of 
his canvass on behalf of Pasteur. The very next morning, 
when the gates of the Montparnasse cemetery were opened, 
a woman walked towards Biot's grave with her hands full of 
flowers. It was Mme Pasteur, who was bringing them to 
him who lay there since February 5, 1862. 

After his election to the Institut, in March 1863, the 
Emperor Napoleon III, who professed an interest in all that 
was going on in the small laboratory of the Rue d'Ulm, 
desired to speak with Pasteur. Dumas claimed the privilege 
of presenting his former pupil, and the interview took place at 
the Tuileries. Napoleon questioned Pasteur, who assured 
" the Emperor that all my ambition was to arrive at the 
knowledge of the causes of putrid and contagious diseases."! 
The spontaneous generationists, Pouchet, Joly, Professor of 
Physiology at Toulouse, and Musset, made fresh experiments 
which apparently verified their ideas. Ascending higher 
than Montanvert, they found alteration in their flasks. 
These, filled with a decoction of hay, showed germs. 
Pasteur's flasks, filled with yeast water, showed sterility. 
Our conclusion would be that the different results de- 
pended on the circumstance that the hay water con- 
tained the spores of the bacilli. Pouchet, Joly, and Musset 
of course thought nothing of the kind, and were convinced 
even in 1876 when Dr. Bastian raised the question again 
that they were as indubitably right as Pasteur was as 
indubitably wrong. " Therefore/' said Pouchet triumph- 
antly,:}: " the air of the Maladetta [the glacier they ascended], 
and of high mountains in general, is not incapable of pro- 
ducing alteration in an eminently putrescible liquor; therefore 
heterogenia or the production of a new being devoid of 
parents, but formed at the expense of ambient organic 
matter, is for us a reality." 

* R. Vallery-Radot, Life of Pasteur, p. 99. 
t Ibid., p. 104. J Ibid., p. 105. 

Ibid., p. 105. 


Before the world of fashion as well as before the world 
of learning in the lecture-room of the Sorbonne, on April 7, 
1864, Pasteur gave his conclusions. Duruy and Alexandre 
Dumas, senior, George Sand and the Princess Mathilde, were 
present, as well as representatives of science. Beginning in 
his deep, firm voice, Pasteur said : " Great problems are now 
being handled, keeping every thinking man in suspense; 
the unity or multiplicity of human races ; the creation of man 
a thousand years or a thousand centuries ago ; the fixity of 
species, or the slow and progressive transformation of one 
species into another; the eternity of matter; the idea of a 
God unnecessary. Such are some of the questions that 
humanity discusses nowadays." * Then he came to his own 
subject. Can matter organise itself? Can living beings 
come into the world without having been preceded by beings 
similar to them? Explaining how the microscope had 
given a fresh lease of life to the idea of spontaneous genera- 
tion, he narrated the results of his experiments, showing the 
part played by germs. " And, therefore, gentlemen, I could 
point to that liquid and say to you, I have taken my drop 
of water from the immensity of creation, and I have taken 
it full of the elements appropriate to the development of 
inferior beings. And I wait, I watch, I question it, begging 
it to recommence for me the beautiful spectacle of the first 
creation. But it is dumb, dumb since these experiments were 
begun several years ago; it is dumb because I have kept it 
from the only thing man cannot produce, from the germs 
which float in the air, from Life, for Life is a germ and a 
germ is life. Never will the doctrine of spontaneous generation 
recover from the mortal blow of this simple experiment/' f 

The fashionable and the scientific audience applauded these 
stirring words, which ended the lecture : " No, there is now 
no circumstance known to me in which it can be affirmed 
that microscopic beings came into the world without germs, 
without parents similar to themselves. Those who affirm it 
have been duped by illusions, by ill-conducted experiments, 
spoilt by errors that either they did not perceive or did not 
know how to avoid." J -. 

* R. Vallery-Radot, Life of Pasteur, p. 107. 

t Ibid., p. 108. Cf. Sir R. Godlee, Lord Lister, p. 176 

fc R. Vallery-Radot, Life of Pasteur, p. 109. 


George Eliot used to say that of all forms of mistake, 
prophecy was quite the most gratuitous. In 1876 twelve 
years after the date of the famous Sorbonne lecture Pouchet 
and Musset, Joly and Bastian * alike announced experiments 
which, they claimed, proved the truth of the doctrine of 
spontaneous generation. Therefore this doctrine, in spite 
of Pasteur, did recover, though the recovery was a poor one. 

Minute organisms were the vera causa of what was called 
spontaneous generation. Might they not be the causes of 
much else? Might they not set up diseases in animals and 
men as well as fermentation in liquids ? While these general 
conclusions were in his mind, J. B. Dumas asked him to 
turn his attention to the poisonous plight of the silkworms. 
In the reign of Louis-Philippe the income from the silk 
industry was 100,000,000 francs. In Pasteur's day the loss 
in one arrondissement of Alais for fifteen years was 
120,000,000 francs. This huge income was in process of 
vanishing, for disease attacked the silkworms. The symp- 
toms were serious in 1843 an d 1845, an( l became increasingly 
so in 1849, I ^53, and 1864. As the spots on the diseased 
worms resembled pepper grains, the disease was called 
" pebrine," from the patois word pebre. To the deep disgust 
of the silkworm cultivators, Pasteur studied hundreds of 
moths under the microscope. They thought that the 
services of a zoologist or one of themselves infinitely 
preferable to one who was a " mere chemist." Pas- 
teur contented himself with saying, " Have patience," 
and continued experimenting. He ascertained that 
there were two distinct maladies at work. One was the real 
pebrine, due to a protozoal organism. The other was 
" flacherie," due to an actively mobile bacillus. He diagnosed 
the causes and he provided a remedy for both, and this, in 
spite of the hostility or the scepticism of scientists and 
cultivators, he successfully accomplished. In the spirit of 
Faraday, he informed Napoleon and Eugenie, in the course 
of a private interview with them when they manifested some 
surprise that he did not apply his discoveries to his own 
profit, " that in France scientists would consider that they 
lowered themselves by doing so." f The real man comes out 

* Cf. the remarks in M. Onslow, Huia OnsloWj pp. 108-9. 
t R. Vallery-Radot, Life of Pasteur, p. 129. 


no less clearly in the answer he gave to Henri Sainte-Claire 
Deville when Claude Bernard and Pasteur tried blood taken 
from patients during the cholera epidemic of 1865. Deville 
remarked to Pasteur, " Studies of that sort require much 
courage." "What about duty?" said Pasteur simply, in a 
tone, said Deville afterwards, worth many sermons. Like 
Sir Walter Raleigh, he continued to toil terribly. Friends 
were tempted to make a comparison with the legendary demon 
of Michael Scott, who had to be found a task lest he should 
turn upon his master. 

The old adversaries, who proclaimed their belief in 
spontaneous generation, and the new ones, who announced 
that there was nothing in " pebrine " or flacherie," were ex- 
tremely en evidence in 1867. Pouchet was as confident as 
ever, announcing that the question of spontaneous genera- 
tion was being taken up in Italy and Germany, in England 
and America. In his illuminating biography of his father-in- 
law of which we have made so extensive use, M. Vallery- 
Radot records : " Now that the scourge [of the silkworms] 
was really conquered, Pasteur imagined that all he had to do 
was to set up a table of results sent to him. But, from the 
south of France and from Corsica, jealousies were beginning 
their work of undermining; pseudo-scientists in their vanity 
proclaimed that everything was illusory that was outside their 
own affirmations, and the seed merchants, willing to ruin 
everybody rather than jeopardise their miserable interests, 
' did not hesitate (we are quoting M. Gernez) to perpetrate 
the most odious falsehoods.' Instead of being annoyed, 
saddened, often indignant as he was, Pasteur would have done 
more wisely to look back upon the history of most great 
discoveries and of the initial difficulties which beset them. 
But he could not look upon such things philosophically; 
stupidity astonished him and he could not easily bring himself 
to believe in bad faith. His friends in Alais society, M. de 
Lachadenede, M. Despeyroux, Professor of Chemistry, 
might have reminded him, in their evening conversations, of 
the difficulties ever encountered in the service of mankind. . . . 
But such comparisons had no weight with Pasteur; he was 
henceforth sure of his method and longed to see it adopted, 
unable to understand why there should be further discussions 
now that the silkworm industry was saved and the bread of 


so many families assured. He was learning to know all 
the bitterness of sterile polemics, and the obstacles placed one 
by one in the way of those who attempt to give humanity 
anything new and useful." * 

The opposition Pasteur experienced was the opposition that 
Jenner had experienced when he proclaimed the truth of 
vaccination, it was the opposition that Simpson had ex- 
perienced when he proclaimed the truth of 'chloroform effects, 
it was the opposition Lyell had experienced when he pro- 
claimed the truth of uniformitarianism, it was the opposition 
Helmholtz and Joule had experienced when they proclaimed 
the truth of the conservation of energy, and it was the 
opposition Darwin had experienced when he proclaimed the 
truth of evolutionism. The doctrines change, the discoverers 
change, but the opposition never changes. Our studies in the 
conflict if they teach us anything of science with scientists 
during the nineteenth century teach us that the discoverer 
can always reckon on meeting with opposition from his 
fellow-scientists. True, the opposition may wear different 
forms, but plus ga change, plus c'est la mcme chose. 

The case of Liebig adds to the truth of this grave French 
saying. Pasteur had met him on paper, and he had not 
convinced him of the truth of his ideas on fermentation. 
Pasteur, optimistically enough, believed that if he met the 
illustrious German chemist in the flesh he might convert him 
to the truth of his ideas. He forgot, foolishly enough, that 
if he converted Liebig to the truth of his ideas, he proved 
the falsity of Liebig's idea. In face of decisive experiments, 
how could Liebig affirm that the presence of decomposing 
matter should be necessary to fermentation ? Had not Pasteur 
sown a trace of yeast in water, containing but sugar and 
crystallised salts, and had he not seen this yeast multiply 
itself and produce a regular alcoholic fermentation? How 
could Liebig deny the independent existence of ferments in 
their infinite littleness and their power of destroying and 
transforming everything? Besides, Liebig, who hailed 
Dumas as a master, had seen this master acknowledge the 
truth of the new views. Since then Pasteur had extended 
his theory to the disease infecting the silkworms and had 
shadowed forth its extension to the diseases of men as well 
* R, Vallery-Radot, Life of Pasteur, p. 170. 


as of animals. In 1870, full of hope, Pasteur paid his visit. 
" To convince Liebig," writes M. Vallery-Radot, " to bring 
him to acknowledge the triumph of those ideas with the 
pleasure of a true savant, such was Pasteur's desire when 
he entered Liebig's laboratory. The tall old man, in a long 
frock coat, received him with kindly courtesy; but when 
Pasteur, who was eager to come to the object of his visit, 
tried to approach the delicate subject, Liebig, without losing 
his amenity, refused all discussion, alleging indisposition. 
Pasteur did not insist, but promised himself that he would 
return to the charge." * 

If law is silent during war, research is no less so. On the 
outbreak of the Franco-German War of 1870-1, Pasteur 
longed to serve, but an attack of paralysis had disqualified 
him for active service. The disasters of his native land fell 
on his ardent heart with the deepest pain and grief. " Should 
we not cry : ' Happy are the dead ! ' " he wrote when he heard 
of the surrender of Metz, the strongest in France, by Bazaine 
without a struggle. 

Lister had been meditating on Pasteur's theory of germs 
with the outcome that he proclaimed himself a follower of the 
new ideas. He attempted the destruction of germs floating in 
the air by means of a vaporiser filled with a carbolic solution. 
But it occurred to no one in France except Pasteur to 
apply the Pasteurian conceptions to the cure of wounds. 

Pasteur, as we have seen, returned his diploma of M.D., 
honoris causa, bestowed upon him by the University of 
Bonn. The reply was : " SIR, The undersigned, now Prin- 
cipal of the Faculty of Medicine of Bonn, is requested to 
answer the insult you have dared to offer to the German 
nation in the sacred person of its august Emperor, King 
Wilhelm of Prussia, by sending you the expression of their 
entire contempt. MAURICE NAUMANN. P.S. Desiring to 
keep its papers free from taint, the Faculty herewith returns 
your screed." 

Part of the reply of Pasteur was : " And now, Mr. 
Principal, after reading over both your letter and mine, I 
sorrow in my heart to think that men who, like yourself and 
myself, have spent a lifetime in the pursuit of truth and 
progress should address each other in such a fashion. This 
* R. Vallery-Radot, Life of Pasteur, p. 175. 


is but one of the results of the character your Emperor has 
given the war. You speak to me of taint. Mr. Principal, 
you may be assured that taint will rest until far-distant ages 
on the memory of those who began the bombardment of 
Paris, when capitulation by famine was inevitable, and who 
continued this act of savagery after it had become evident 
to all men that it would not advance by one hour the sur- 
render of this heroic city." 

The brilliant young painter, Henri Regnault, enlisted as a 
Garde Nationale, though exempt by law from any military 
service as he was a laureate of the Prix de Rome. In the last 
sortie attempted by the Prussians at Buzenval, the last 
Prussian shot struck him in the forehead. The Academy of 
Sciences rendered its homage to one whose coffin enclosed 
so many hopes of a great future in the world of art. 

The Franco-German War forms an essential part of 
Pasteur's life not only as a Frenchman but also as a scientist. 
Accustomed to diagnosis in science, he extended his diagnosis 
to la Patrie. He put his finger on what he conceived to 
be the main fault, the forgetfulness, the disdain, that France 
had exhibited for intellectual men, especially in the domain 
of exact science. If in 1792 France was able to face danger 
on all sides, had she not Berthollet and Chaptal, Fourcroy 
and de Moreau, Monge and Lavoisier? The day after 
Lavoisier's execution, Lagrange said : " One moment was 
enough for this head to fall, and two hundred years may 
not suffice to produce such another." If Lavoisier and Con- 
dorcet perished, the Republic had many scientists behind it. 
Were there such men in 1870-1? The more he reflected 
on the plight of his beloved land, the more Pasteur felt that it 
was the most urgent of all calls to persistent research as much 
to redeem the reputation of France as to contribute to the 
cause of truth. 

In a fever of anxiety, he set to work. He had improved 
the silk industry. Could he not seek means of making his 
seed-selecting process applicable by cultivators on a small 
scale as well as a large? Could not each village own its 
own microscope? Could not the village schoolmaster 
examine the moths? Italy and Austria adopted his plans 
for the diagnosis of the disease of the silkworms long before 
his native country, which was the very last to be convinced, 


Austria offered him a handsome prize for his remedy against 
pebrine, and then it struck French sericultors that there was 
something in it. M. Vallery-Radot seems to think that the 
French character offers this strange contrast, that France 
is often willing to risk her fortune and her blood for causes 
which may be unworthy, whilst at another moment, in every- 
day life, she shrinks at the least innovation before accepting 
a benefit originated on her own soil. The French often wait 
until other nations have adopted and approved a French 
discovery before venturing to adopt it in their turn. Here 
we think that the biographer is too hard on his fellow- 
countrymen, for just as a prophet has no honour in his 
own country, the discoverer has every whit as little. When 
other countries become aware of the merits of the discoverer, 
then his own begins to appreciate them. R. Meldola, in his 
memoir of Sir William Henry Perkin (1838 1907), insists 
on this very point. Perkin discovered mauve, the first 
aniline dye which had created the important coal-tar dyeing 
industry and had revolutionised industrial processes in varied 
directions. The Germans, however, were more alive to the 
merits of mauve than the countrymen of its discoverer. 

Inspired by patriotic motives, Pasteur hoped to make 
French beer capable of competing with German beer, and he 
sought for the causes rendering beer acid or putrid, sour or 
slimy. Were not these alterations due to germs in the air, 
or in the water, or in the utensils of the brewery? Whether 
he investigated silkworms, vinegar, or wine, germs always 
afforded the clue, the clue of which he was the real discoverer. 
As the silkworm cultivators had turned aside from his plans 
till their brethren in Italy and Austria had adopted them, so 
the beer manufacturers turned aside. English brewers 
received a visit from the French scientist in a more friendly 
spirit than the French, though this arises partly from the 
fact that the visitor was foreign. Pasteur felt glad of the 
opportunity of rendering assistance to the practical English 
brewers, who concluded that the stranger possessed ideas out 
of which they could reap profit. " We must make friends 
for our beloved France," he would say, and certainly men 
like him rendered possible the Entente of our own day. He 
combined in his person the faith of a patriotic apostle with the 
patience of a fervent scientist. 


Pouchet, in his book on The Universe: the Infinitely Great 
and the Infinitely Small, published in 1872, condescended 
to admit that some " microzoa did fly about here and there/' 
but as for the theory of germs, why, that was simply "a 
ridiculous fiction. " Liebig had apparently recovered from the 
indisposition he felt at his interview with Pasteur in July 
1870, for he published a long treatise disputing the facts put 
forward by Pasteur. He declared that in the German 
process of vinegar-making the chips of beech-wood placed in 
the barrels acted as supports for the Mycoderma aceti. 
Liebig, who consulted at Munich the chief of one of the 
largest vinegar factories, affirmed that he himself had not seen 
a trace of fungus on chips used in that factory for twenty-five 
years. Pasteur had offered to Pouchet, Joly, and Musset 
to bring their conflicting views to the test of experiment, 
and they had in effect refused. Pasteur offered to dry some 
of the chips rapidly in a stove and to send them to Paris, 
where a commission, selected from members of the Academy 
of Sciences, would decide this dispute. Liebig refused to 
submit to this test. 

A member of the Academy of Sciences, M. Fremy, took 
part in what proved to be an almost interminable discussion 
on the origin of ferments. So far back as 1841 he had 
investigated lactic fermentation, " at a time when our learned 
colleague M. Pasteur was barely entering into science," 
and his conclusion was that ferments arose from organic 
bodies, not from dust. Some bodies, he held, by reason of 
the vital force with which they are endowed, go through 
successive decompositions, and give rise to new derivatives. 
Thus, only thus, are ferments engendered. His theory was 
in fact a form of the spontaneous generation view combined 
with the vital force of the school of Natural Philosophy, 
a school Helmholtz had to encounter. 

M. Trecul, a botanist who sincerely sought the truth, 
insisted that he had witnessed a whole series of transforma- 
tion of microscopic species each into the other. Besides, 
Pouchet, Joly, and Musset had proved the matter. There- 
fore, spontaneous generation must be true. Pasteur offered 
experimental proof if Messieurs Fremy and Trecul cared 
to avail themselves of it. Like Liebig, like Pouchet, Joly, 
Musset, they did not care to avail themselves of it. Balard 


and Dumas implored Pasteur to continue his researches, dis- 
regarding the attacks made upon them. Pasteur felt as 
strongly as Huxley that he had been given truth, and that 
he must at all costs proclaim it. On his way to the Diet of 
Worms, Martin Luther, according to tradition, retorted to 
those who would have prevented his going there : " Here I 
stand, I can do no other. God help me. Amen." Here 
Pasteur stood, and he too could do no other. " What 
you lack, M. Fremy, is familiarity with the microscope, 
and you, M. Trecul, are not accustomed to laboratories/' 
Trecul persisted that he had witnessed the transforma- 
tion of cells or spores from one into the other. Yes, 
cordially agreed Pasteur, there was one transformation, 
that of Mycoderma vini into an alcoholic ferment, but there 
was certainly no other. The controversy dragged on. How 
could it help dragging on when Messieurs Fremy and Trecul 
were thrifty of experiment and extravagant with speech? 
Their opponent was extravagant with experiment and thrifty 
of speech. They were like two Euclidian parallel 
straight lines: they could never, in spite of Einstein, 

The experiments all through the fierce dispute went on. 
Pasteur observed the aerobiae, requiring air to live, the 
anaerobice, perishing when exposed to air, and a class of 
organisms capable of living for a time outside the influence 
of air. Surely fermentation was simply life without air. 
The old researches joined on to the new, reinforcing the old 
conclusions by fresh examples which served to deepen their 
truth. Liebig and his school insisted that fermentation was 
a phenomenon of death. Pasteur equally insisted that it was 
a phenomenon of life without air. 

If germs are in the air, it would seem as if ideas were 
also in the air. Men by their intuition divine what they do 
not experimentally know. The theory of atomism and the 
theory of evolution were divined in classical times before 
there was a shred of real proof offered in support of either. 
Similarly, the theory of germs has a long history, though 
nothing like so lengthy a pedigree as either the theory of 
atomism or the theory of evolution. Robert Boyle (1627 
1691), the seventh son and the fourteenth child of the 
" great " Earl of Cork, had announced that he who could 


probe to the bottom the nature of ferments and fermentation 
would probably be more capable than anyone of explaining 
certain morbid phenomena. Nor was this the only flash of 
Boyle's genius. Did he not demolish the peripatetic doctrine 
of the four elements, the Stagiristic doctrine of the tria 
primal Did he not tentatively substitute the principles of a 
" mechanical philosophy" for that of mere hypothesis? 
Did he not suggest fresh ways of looking at the old atomic 
views? Did he not suggest the transmutability of differing 
forms of matter by the rearrangement of their particles? 
Views on the nature of fermentation and its bearing on 
disease he possessed. It remained for a man of the genius 
of Pasteur to win verification, by patient investigation, for 
what Boyle had divined. If Boyle was the Moses who led 
men to Mount Pisgah, Pasteur was the Joshua who led them 
to the Promised Land. 

Medical men seem to resent with peculiar emphasis 
the intrusion of the criticisms of anyone who does 
not belong to their ranks. Darwin thought with grave 
reason that intelligent men, who were not naturalists, 
would grasp his ideas on natural history. Zoologists, botan- 
ists, and geologists, in a diminishing scale, would certainly 
offer stout opposition. His forecast was amply warranted 
by the hostile reception given by the naturalists in general and 
by the zoologists in particular to his Origin of Species. The 
microbe of conservatism in opinion had infected them. 
Medical men also possess this microbe in no scanty measure. 
So Jenner had found, so Simpson had found, so Lister had 
found, and so Pasteur was about to find. What is the cause 
of this attitude of conservatism to ideas? Is it because the 
surgeon and the physician feel themselves to be ruling 
powers? Is it because they are accustomed to offer daily 
advice to their patients? Is this the cause why they so 
frequently adopt the authoritative tone of " I ain't a-arguing 
with you. I'm a-telling you "? 

There are of course many exceptions to the microbe of 
conservatism infecting medical men. Dr. Villemin, the 
physician of Vale de Grace, formed such an exception. 
Working patiently from 1860 to 1865, he came to the con- 
clusion that tuberculosis was a specific and contagious disease. 
Dr. Pidoux, a typical representative of traditional medicine, 


with his gold-buttoned blue coat and his reputation equally 
outstanding in Paris and at the Eaux-Bonnes, declared that 
the idea of specificity was a fatal thought. As Matthew 
Arnold said of religion, that it is morality touched with 
emotion, so practice in medicine is science touched with 
emotion. The pity is that the emotion not seldom assumes 
the form of prejudice. " Le medecin artiste ne cree rien," 
said Claude Bernard, Pasteur's close friend; but surely he 
is wrong. For the doctor of the type of Pidoux creates the 
atmosphere of a stately practice, unassailable, fortified in 
authority. The surgeon of his class, when he possesses skill, 
comes to have a name that is a household word, his face 
known everywhere, his presence felt, his anger dreaded, his 
verdict final. Such a surgeon is sometimes the honour of his 
profession, sometimes the dishonour. His is the honour 
if with his experiences he preserves something of an open 
mind. His is the dishonour if with his experiences he holds 
a mind hermetically sealed with seven seals against the 
admission of all new ideas. 

Pidoux was naturally a staunch supporter of the doctrine 
of diathesis and of the morbid spontaneity of the organism. 
To him " disease is in us, of us, by us." He was not 
even sure that smallpox could only proceed from inocula- 
tion and contagion. Did Villemin, in the true spirit of 
Pasteur, declare there were germs of tuberculosis? 
Then it was for Pidoux to declare that " then all we doctors 
have to do is to set our nets to catch the sporules of tuber- 
culosis, and find a vaccine. " If truth is sometimes spoken in 
jest, it is also sometimes spoken in sarcasm, and Pidoux 
spoke it in sarcasm. Spontaneous generation, we can imagine 
his saying, is right, always has been right, and always will 
be right. As for these new-fangled notions about germs, no 
doctor with any reputation to lose would dream of believing 
in them ! Following in the steps of Villemin, Davaine, who 
had perused Pasteur's books on fermentation, had the 
audacity to put forth the idea that the filaments found in 
anthrax were bacteria. 

As Pasteur had been attacked, as Villemin had been 
attacked, so Davaine was now attacked. Dr. Chassaignac, a 
prominent surgeon, spoke before the Academy of Medicine 
of what he called " laboratory surgery, which has destroyed 


very many animals and saved very few human beings/' * 
He elaborated his ideas by pointing out that " laboratory 
results should be brought out in a circumspect, modest, and 
reserved manner, as long as they have not been sanctioned 
by long clinical researches, a sanction without which there is 
no real and practical medical science." * That is, the 
surgeon of his class should hear from the scientist what he 
had discovered, should impart his discovery to him, and then 
he himself should employ it in his operating theatre, and of 
course claim all the credit of the work of another. Besides, 
"everything," he held, " cannot be resolved into a question 
of bacteria!" All unconscious of the truth, he growled, 
" Typhoid fever, bacterisation ! Hospital miasma, bacterisa- 
tion ! ! " Dr. Piorry, with all his accustomed solemnity of 
tone, found not germs, but pus! Trecul still thought that 
the vera causa was his hypothesis of transformations. 

The appreciation denied Pasteur at home was to be his in 
abundant measure abroad. If his ideas did not for the 
time bear fruit in the hospitals of Paris, they did in the 
hospitals of Edinburgh, as the following letter, dated from 
Edinburgh, February 13, 1874, testifies: 

MY DEAR SIR, Allow me to beg your acceptance of a 
pamphlet, which I send by the same post, containing an 
account of some investigations into the subject which you 
have done so much to elucidate, the germ theory of fermenta- 
tive changes. I flatter myself that you may read with some 
interest what I have written on the organism which you were 
the first to describe in your Memoire sur la Fermentation 
Appelee Lactique. 

I do not know whether the records of British " surgery " 
ever meet your eye. If so, you will have seen from time to 
time notices of the antiseptic system of treatment, which I 
have been labouring for the last nine years to bring to 

Allow me to take this opportunity to tender you my most 
cordial thanks for having, by your brilliant researches, 
demonstrated to me the truth of the germ theory of putre- 
faction, and thus furnished me with the principle upon which 

* R. Vallery-Radot, Life of Pasteur, p. 228. 


alone the antiseptic system can be carried out. Should you 
at any time visit Edinburgh, it would, I believe, give you 
sincere gratification to see at our hospital how largely man- 
kind is being benefited by your labours. 

I need hardly say that it would afford me the highest 
gratification to show you how greatly surgery is indebted 
to you. 

Forgive the freedom with which a common love of science 
inspires me, and 

Believe me, with profound respect, 
Yours very sincerely, 




JOSEPH LISTER (1827 1912) came of that Quaker stock 
which has left such an indelible impress on the character of 
England. Originally of Yorkshire descent, John Lister came 
to London, becoming a freeman of the Bakers' Company. 
His son Joseph Jackson entered the wine business, and 
attained distinct business success. Marrying Isabella Harris, 
his fourth child and second son was born on April 5, 1827, 
in Upton House, a capacious old Queen Anne house with 
fields and gardens, at Upton in Essex. The atmosphere the 
child breathed was scientific from the very first. Between 
1824 and 1843, * n the intervals of business, his father 
found time to make mathematical calculations and to investi- 
gate the true shape of the red 'corpuscles of the blood. His 
work gained for him the Fellowship of the Royal Society 
in 1832, thus bringing him into contact with Airy and 
Herschel, Dr. Hodgkin and Sir Richard Owen. Unlike 
Darwin, his son learnt science at school, and at the age of 
fifteen he had already a sound all-round education, well 
grounded in mathematics and modern languages, natural 
science in general and comparative anatomy in particular. 
His bent towards surgery was unmistakable from the time 
he was a child, and this bent gradually became more 

He left school in the spring of 1844, an d entered University 
College, London, to read for the B.A. degree. In the winter 
session of 1848 he began his preliminary medical studies 
under such men as Lindley, Professor of Botany; Graham, 
Professor of Chemistry; Grant, Professor of Comparative 
Anatomy; Ellis, Professor of Anatomy; Carpenter, Pro- 
fessor of Medical Jurisprudence ; Wharton Jones, Professor 
of Surgery; and Sharpey, Professor of Physiology. All 



were competent men, and Jones and Sharpey were much more 
than competent. 

Two of the finest biographies we have the pleasure of 
knowing are Mr. Stephen Paget's Memoirs and Letters of Sir 
James Paget and Sir Rickman Godlee's Lord Lister. * 
Among the many matters common to these two entrancing 
volumes there is the enthusiasm with which both speak of the 
teachers at their respective medical schools. It is a joy to 
note that when Paget and Lister looked back to their early 
days, both of them could testify to the abilities, the characters, 
and the workmanship of the men who lectured them. As they 
were at different medical schools, they do not naturally 
mention the same lecturers. This we regret, for as they both 
belonged to about the same period in surgery it would have 
been invaluable to compare the estimates they respectively 
formed. The rank Lawrence and Latham, Burrows and 
Stanley, occupied in Paget's eyes was filled in Lister's by 
Graham and Lindley, Wharton Jones and Sharpey. At 
University College, as at St. Bartholomew's, there was what 
Paget called " constant dissension and mischievous rivalry 
among the teachers." f 

The extent and the precision of the knowledge of Wharton 
Jones combined with his investigations on the circulation 
of the blood and the phenomena of inflammation rendered 
him, in the opinion of Jenner, one of the greatest Englishmen 
who ever lived. Even making allowance for the enthusiasm 
of a fellow-student, this is extremely liberal praise, and 
Lister was fortunate in having such a man as a teacher, and 
in this capacity Huxley spoke warmly of the method and 
quality of his physiological teaching. J William Sharpey 
(1802 1880) was a few years older than Wharton Jones, 
and has been called the father of modern physiology, because 
he was the first to give a special course of lectures on this 
subject, which had formerly been treated as an appanage 
of anatomy. He had studied at Edinburgh and at Paris, 
where he worked at clinical surgery under Dupuytren and 

* Once for all we acknowledge our vast indebtedness to Sir Rickman 
Godlee's book. We are glad to notice it has just gone into another new 
edition. Ours is the 1917 one. 

t S. Paget, Memoirs and Letters of Sir /. Paget, p. 40. 

j L. Huxley, Life and Letters of T. H. Huxley, I, pp. 20, 21, 26, 99. 
It is a pity there is no account of Jones in the D.N.B. 


operative surgery under Lis franc. At Berlin he dissected for 
nine months under Rudolphi, proceeding to Heidelberg to be 
under Tiedemann, and afterwards to Vienna. Commencing 
his medical studies in 1818, he did not settle in Edinburgh 
till 1829, a course almost unprecedented for thoroughness in 
those days. Appointed in 1836 to the chair of anatomy 
and physiology at University College, London, he taught 
there for thirty-eight years, exercising his undoubted power 
as a great teacher who was able to bind his pupils to himself 
both by ties of personal affection as well as by their common 
scientific interests. Among them were Michael Foster of 
Cambridge, and Burdon Sanderson of Oxford, and Lister. 

The staff of University College Hospital included such 
well-known men as Sir John Erichsen and Sir William Jenner, 
who were careful observers. Thanks to J. Y. Simpson, 
the use of anaesthetics had robbed the operating theatre of 
much of its horrors. Yet the old days had left their mark, 
for operations were still performed with that breathless 
haste that characterised the pre- Jenner clays. The need for 
the haste had disappeared, but the tradition of it remained, 
and the celerity of the operation was regarded as the out- 
ward and visible sign of a first-class surgeon. Pain no longer 
was the evil to be dreaded. Sometimes it almost seems as if 
in getting rid of one evil we have merely provided the 
opportunity for another to appear. If pain had largely gone, 
there were such subjects of dread as erysipelas and gangrene, 
pyaemia and septicaemia, and purulent infection. In the 
opinion of the surgeon Velpeau, so grave were these calam- 
ities that he said, " A pin-prick is a door open to Death." 
The terror expressed by ovariotomy was such that a physician 
declared that it ought to be " classed among the attributes 
of the executioner." Views like these impressed the young 
medical student with the risks undergone by the patient. If 
coming events sometimes cast their shadow before them, we 
can understand Lister reading a paper before the hospital 
Medical Society on hospital gangrene. In 1852 he won the 
M.B. of the University of London and the Fellowship of the 
Royal College of Surgeons, concluding his nine years at 
University College, and he also won that taste for original 
research which he owed principally to Wharton Jones and 
William Sharpey. 


As Paget and Huxley when young students made their 
discoveries, so Lister made his. Kolliker of Wiirzburg, the 
leading histologist, had been the first to show that the 
contractile curtain in front of the lens of the eye was made 
of involuntary muscular tissue, and this tissue in turn was 
made of cells. Lister confirmed and extended Kolliker's 
observations, and for the first time demonstrated the exist- 
ence of two distinct muscles in the iris, the dilator and 
sphincter, for enlarging and diminishing the size of the 
pupil.* Sir Richard Owen, an old friend of Lister's father, 
was pleased with this and another paper confirming observa- 
tions of Kolliker on the involuntary muscular fibres of the 
skin.f Naturally that fine man, Kolliker, felt pleasure in 
deriving support from the young surgeon. 

The circumstances of Quaker families are usually easy, 
and accordingly we find that Lister travelled at home and 
abroad. He felt interested in geology and architecture, in 
manners and customs, and he improved his knowledge of 
French, German, and even Dutch. As Sharpey had pursued 
his studies at different medical schools for eleven years, 
he recommended Lister to go to the famous one of Edin- 
burgh, there to complete his studies by attending the practice 
of Syme. There was the James Syme (1799 1870) 
James Simpson knew, and there was the far different James 
Syme that Joseph Lister came to know with intimacy. Dr. 
John Brown, the author of Rob and his Friends, described 
Syme as " verax, capax, perspicax, sagax, efficax, tenax," and 
Lister plainly came to entertain an equally high opinion of 
him. Indeed, Lister thought that to enumerate all the con- 
tributions made by Syme during his career to the science and 
art of surgery was out of the question. In September 1853 
Lister presented Sharpey's introduction to Syme, who at once 
received him most warmly. 

The attraction between Syme and Lister was as great as 
the repulsion between Syme and Simpson. Lister had 
intended staying a month in Edinburgh, and he actually 
remained seven years. Syme made him house surgeon at the 

* Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science, 1853, I, p. 8; Lister, 
Collected Papers, I, p. I. 

t Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science, 1853, I, P- 262; Lister, 
Collected Papers, I, p. g. 


hospital, and the two grew to be friends whose union was 
cemented when Lister married Agnes Syme on April 24, 
1856, the daughter of the surgeon. As Pasteur had a real 
helpmate in his wife, Lister was fortunate enough to find one 
in his. Mrs. Lister sometimes wrote for her husband from 
dictation for seven or eight hours a day and " was most 
helpful in suggestion as to words and arrangement of 
sentences/' By this marriage according to the strict customs 
of those days Lister was obliged to sever his connection with 
the Quakers, and he joined the Anglican communion. Here 
perhaps we ought to mention that in 1909 he wrote : " I have 
no hesitation in saying that, in my opinion, there is no an- 
tagonism between the religion of Jesus Christ and any fact 
scientifically." * There are many parallelisms between Paget 
and Lister, and their religious faith forms one of them. 
Jenner, Simpson, Lyell, Helmholtz, Joule, and Pasteur were 
all men who cared deeply for their common Christian religion. 
There is just one exception, and it is the outstanding name of 

, There were dissensions within and rivalries without in the 
case of the medical schools of London. " Students of the 
medical history of the first half of the nineteenth century," 
remarked Sir Rickman Godlee, " cannot fail to be struck 
by the acrimony with which discussions were carried on, 
the amount of jealousy they excited, and the personal element 
which was constantly introduced. There is scarcely an 
author who does not speak of the odium medicum. It was 
a relic of the still more quarrelsome times of Mead, Jenner, 
and the Hunters, and indeed had been handed down from the 
long past." f None of this spirit animated Lister, who, 
strangely enough, thought that he should have less difficulty 
in avoiding it in Edinburgh than in London. Clearly he 
knew nothing of the fierce strife between Syme and Simpson, 
which was by no means unique, and he certainly had never 
heard of the even fiercer contests between the Wernerians 
and the Huttonians, waged most bitterly of all places in the 
University of Edinburgh herself. Is there a fieriness in the 
Celt that is lacking in the stolidity of the English? Be that 
as it may, neither Oxford, nor Cambridge, nor London can 

* Sir R. Godlee, Lord Lister, p. 613, 
t Ibid., p. 31. 


equal the scientific acerbity marking the annals of Edinburgh 
University during the first five decades of the nineteenth 
century. It is, therefore, with astonishment we read a letter 
of Lister to his father in which he writes : " I shall not have, 
as in London, to fight with jealous rivals, and contend or 
join ingloriously with quacks, but I shall be able, if all be 
well, to acquire a solid reputation in a legitimate manner, and 
then, if it seem desirable, move to London, and stand on my 
own ground there. I am by disposition very averse to 
quarrelling and contending with others, in fact, I doubt if 
I could do it, though I have never tried much, but at the same 
time I do love honesty and independence, which without con- 
tention would be almost impossible in London." * 

Liston, Sir William Fergusson, and Sir Charles Bell had 
all done signally well in London, and Syme himself in 1848 
had been Professor of Surgery at University College. 
Edinburgh was not an abode of quiet, yet the atmosphere of 
the place proved uncongenial to him. " I found/' he said, 
" such a spirit of dispeace in the College as to forbid any 
reasonable prospect of comfort," and therefore he returned to 
a metropolis where he better grasped the conditions of 
hostility. Whatever foes Syme encountered abroad, he met 
none in his own home. Lister was his house surgeon, and the 
intimacy between the two grew with extreme rapidity. John 
Hunter was Lister's greatest hero, as he had been the hero 
of Edward Jenner before him. Nor did he ever fail 
in his allegiance to the man who revolutionised surgery by 
putting it on a scientific basis more than any other man 
before the introduction of anaesthetics and antiseptics. A 
proof of Sharp's engraving of the portrait of Hunter by 
Reynolds, which had belonged to Syme, hung in Lister's 
study. He set such store by it, that, when Sir Rickman 
Godlee asked to borrow it about a fortnight before he died, 
he said, in giving permission, " As I value it very highly, 
I should be glad to have it returned to its place at Park 
Crescent as soon as you have finished with it." f 

Lister seldom spoke while he was operating, feeling as he 
said, that " to introduce an unskilled hand into such a piece 
of mechanism as the human body is a fearful responsibility." 

* Sir R. Godlee, Life of Lister, p. 31. 
t Ibid., p. 597. 


To some surgeons this body is a collection of sewers, but to 
Lister it was nothing short of the temple of the Holy Ghost. 
The point of view of the patient towards him is expressed by 
W. E. Henley in his sonnet " The Chief/* written when he 
was under him in Edinburgh Infirmary: 

His brow spreads large and placid, and his eye 

Is deep and bright, with steady looks that still 

Soft lines of tranquil thought his face fulfil 

His face at once benign and proud and shy. 

If envy scout, if ignorance deny, 

His faultless patience, his unyielding skill, 

Innumerable gratitudes reply. 

His wise, rare smile is sweet with certainties, 

And seems in all his patients to compel 

Such love and faith as failure cannot quell. 

We hold him for another Herakles, 

Battling with custom, prejudice, disease, 

At once the son of Zeus with Death and Hell. 

The friends of Syme were the friends of Lister and the 
enemies of Syme were the enemies of Lister. Syme had views 
of his own on the treatment no less than the pathology of 
club-foot and allied diseases. William Adams, a London 
surgeon, attacked them, and Lister defeated the attacks with 
a heat that was as lively as Syme's. Indeed he became so 
closely identified with him that there was some excuse for his 
father playfully suggesting, " nullius jurare in verba 
magistri." By June 1854 we see how he spent his day. 
He rose at 7; visited one of the hospitals from 8 to 10; 
breakfasted; made notes of what he had seen till 12 ; operated 
from 12 to 2.30 or 3; and devoted the rest of the day to 
correspondence, exercise, and reflection. On September 16, 
1855, he is beginning to be immersed in his investigation of 
the early stages of inflammation.* As Pouchet and his school 
had spoken of spontaneous generation, so Lister in those 
days spoke of spontaneous inflammation. Of course Pasteur 
had not then conducted his researches into the nature of 
bacteria. Germs are so much in the atmosphere we breathe 
physically and mentally that it always comes upon us with 
a shock of surprise when we realise that in 1855 such know- 
ledge was utterly unavailable. 

Preoccupied as Lister was with the subject of inflamma- 

* Phil. Transactions, 1858, CXLVIII, p. 645 ; Lister, Collected Papers, 
I, p. 209. 


tion, he was also occupied with such subjects as the parts 
of the nervous system which regulate the contractions of the 
arteries * and the cutaneous pigmentary system of the frog.f 
On November 7, 1855, he delivered the first of a course of 
lectures on the principles and the practice of surgery. At first, 
like .most lecturers, he read his remarks or had full notes. 
In time he trusted less and less to notes, and at last dispensed 
with them. His early pupils, just as much as his later ones, 
felt impressed by the personality of their teacher. John 
Stewart, writing in 1910, describes this magnetic influence: 
" The difficulty will be for any man to find language to 
express what our master was to us. We knew we were in 
contact with Genius. We felt we were helping in the making 
of history and that all things were becoming new." J The 
admiration for the genius was mingled with love for the 
man. " Many of the students of my day," owns Dr. Mai- 
loch, " reading of the honours conferred upon their old 
teacher (late though they were in coming) , have seen the page 
blurred before them and, while returning thanks for the great 
privilege that had been theirs, must have regretted that they 
had not made a better use of it." " In the Hospital 
wards," confesses Mr. Roxburgh, the last of his Edinburgh 
house surgeons, " it was not only the healing art which was 
taught. They were a school of gentleness and human 
sympathy, and we can well remember the darkening of his 
countenance as, with stern severity, he rebuked an unthinking 
student for lifting a broken leg somewhat roughly. In his 
clinical lectures, which were models of pure English, such 
expressions as ' this poor man/ or * this poor woman/ were 
much oftener heard than ' this case/ " || 

As all medical studies ramify, he soon found that the 
analysis of the problems of inflammation led him on to 
consider coagulation of blood which is closely related to it. 
The observations of even John Hunter did not altogether 
satisfy him. Lister's first article^! on coagulation of the 

* Phil. Transactions, 1858, CXLVIII, p. 607; Lister, Collected Papers, 
I, p. 27. 

f Phil. Transactions, 1858, CXLVIII, p. 627; Lister, Collected Papers, 
I, p. 48. 

J Sir R. Godlee, Lord Lister, p. 604. 

Ibid., p. 604. 

!! Ibid., p. 605. 

If Edin. Med. Jour., 1858, III, p. 893 ; Lister, Collected Papers, I, p. 69. 


blood was written in 1858, and his fifth and last * in 1891, 
a proof that once he took a matter in hand, though now and 
then the pressure of work forced him to lay it down, it still 
remained at the back of his mind to be resumed when suit- 
able opportunity presented itself. Nor was it in any wise a 
side issue. His labours on the blood proved indispensable to 
his study of inflammation, and the study of the causes and 
the prevention of inflammation in v/ounds formed his 
outstanding achievement. His paper on spontaneous gan- 
grene contained a lucid account of the facts combined with an 
equally lucid survey of the principles to which the facts led 
the investigator. It was read before the Medico-Chirurgical 
Society of Edinburgh on March 18, 1858, "comfortably 
read/' according to Mrs. Lister, " though unfortunately there 
was no one at the meeting who seemed capable of apprecia- 
ting it, and the remarks made upon it were very poor. The 
President (Professor Millar) was not present, and in his 
absence the Vice-President, Mr. Benjamin Bell, was in the 
chair (there is no harm in giving names even though you 
don't know the people). He (Mr. Bell) said something about 
the ' ingenuity ' of the paper and the valuable suggestions 
which Mr. Lister had thrown out. ' Suggestions ! ' when the 
paper contained perfectly clear demonstration of facts having 
the most important bearings. . . . When we went to dinner 
the paper was in a most incomplete state, and it required con- 
siderable exercise of faith to believe that an hour's more work 
could bring it nearly to a close. However, about 7 we resumed 
our labours, and how we did work, Joseph's dictating was 
really wonderful, keeping me writing as fast as I possibly 
could, and the sentences flowing out so smoothly, hardly a 
word having to be altered." | This is only a sample of the 
efficient assistance she tendered to her husband when he was 
pressed with work. His practice in Edinburgh did not attain 
large proportions, and his wife once referred to " poor 
Joseph and his one patient." 

On January 28, 1860, the Crown appointed Lister Regius 
Professor of Surgery at Glasgow University. He had 
testimonials from Syme, his father-in-law, Dr. Gourlay, a 
student attending his lectures, and Dr. Joseph Bell, the 

* Brit. Med. Jour., 1891, I, p. 1057; Lister, Collected Papers, I, p. 189. 
t Sir R. Godlce, Lord Lister, p. 72. 


original of " Sherlock Holmes." Bell writes : " To the 
excellency of what you taught us your published papers and 
the approval of the scientific world bear witness; but to the 
manner in which it was taught none can testify so well as 
your students. Your Lectures were no mere prelections the 
teacher's thoughtfulness compelled the student to think, and 
his enthusiasm urged his hearers to a like love of science. 
Neither were they mere scientific curiosities, but at every 
point the dry details were clothed with life and interest by the 
manner in which you pointed out the bearing of structural 
changes as affecting Surgical practice." * The big oppor- 
tunity had at last come when he was only thirty-two, and 
he was fitted to seize it. 

In Edinburgh Lister had been dwarfed by the personality 
of his father-in-law, and the numbers at his lectures used to 
be seven, and we even hear of his beginning one session with 
one student, who arrived on the opening day ten minutes late ! 
It is accordingly easy to understand the anxiety of the young 
wife when her husband gave his inaugural lecture. While 
waiting at home she wrote to her mother-in-law, describing 
the theatre and " how nice it looks. All so clean and bright 
the green baize on the three doors and the diagram-frame 
setting off the oak colouring, and the bright brass handles 
on the doors setting them off ; and a very handsome slate on 
a frame on one side, and the skeleton nicely mounted on the 
other . . . now it is just about 12. Oh! I trust he may 
be blessed, and believe he will be. His gown will be going on 
for the first time except when I saw it tried on here. About 
5 minutes past ! he will be beginning ! and how is he getting 
on?"f She need not have been anxious, for he got on 
remarkably well with his audience of close on two hundred 
students. It was a lecture delivered in the spirit of Paget 
can one say more? One cannot say less. There was the 
quotation from Ambroise Pare, " I dressed him, God cured 
him," and there was the closing reference to the two 
requisites for the medical profession, first, a warm loving 
heart, and secondly, truth in an earnest spirit. 

No doubt Agnes Lister wrote to her father. At any rate 
he wrote to his son-in-law one of his characteristic letters: 

* Sir R. Godlee, Lord Lister, p. 82. 
t Ibid., p. 91. 


" MY DEAR J., 

I am glad to hear from Ramsay that all went well. 
It being now established that you -can please a large class as 
well as a small one or I should rather say still better the 
game may be considered in your own hands. Wishing you 
all comfort in playing it out. 

Yours affectionately, 

Let me hear your numbers." * 

As an examiner he proved as conscientious as he was as a 
lecturer. In March 1862 he asked the question, Explain 
the principles on which simple incised wounds ought to be 
treated? It is significant of the man that he analysed the 
answer he expected under nine heads with a total value of 
15. It is no less significant of his mental growth then that 
he only allotted 1/30 of the marks to the subject of decom- 
position. In August 1 86 1 he wrote an article on amputation 
that appeared in Holmes's System of Surgery. There is 
much in it about inflammation and coagulation of the blood. 
He observes that we can never be secure against the forma- 
tion of some pus, and provides instruction as to what should 
be done in the case of the onset of erysipelas or hospital 
gangrene. For either was inevitably expected after an 
amputation in the sixties. In 1863-4 he devised a method of 
bloodless operating, and " it is remarkable," notes Sir Rick- 
man Godlee, " that this very important advance in surgery 
made little impression till many years later." f 

It is an astonishing fact that during the first half of the 
nineteenth century surgery had retrograded. J Earlier 
centuries had practised such amateur antiseptics as cauterisa- 
tions by fir, boiling liquids, and disinfecting substances. 

No doubt all such methods are very imperfect, but they 
were better than nothing. " Pus seemed to germinate every- 
where," saicl a student of that time, " as if it had been sown 
by the surgeon." M. Denonvilliers, a splendid surgeon of 

* Sir R. Godlee, Lord Lister, p. 91. 

t Ibid., p. 99. 

J H. L. F. von Helmholtz, Vortriige und Reden f I, p. 361. Cf. his 
discourse < Ueber das Denken in der Medicin," reprinted in his Vortrdge 
und Reden, II, p. 178. 

R. Vallery-Radot, Life of Pasteur, p. 235. 


the Charite Hospital, a first-class operator, used to say to his 
pupils : " When an amputation seems necessary, think ten 
times about it, for too often, when we decide upon an opera- 
tion, we sign the patient's death warrant " * Another sur- 
geon declared : " There was no longer any precise indications, 
any rational provisions; nothing was successful, neither ab- 
stention, conservation, restricted or radical mutilation, early 
or postponed extraction of the bullets, dressings rare or fre- 
quent, emollient or excitant, dry or moist, with or without 
drainage; we tried everything in vain!"| Surgeons had 
come to think that purulent infection was the inevitable 
consequence of any important operation. Nor was the tale 
in Scotland a whit different from that in France. As certain 
as the course of the planets came with the operation 
erysipelas, gangrene, pyaemia, purulent infection, and septicae- 
mia, with all their ghastly accompaniments. As early as 1872 
Lister guessed that tetanus had a microbic origin, but in 1863 
Pasteur had already arrived at a similar stage. 

Sir James Simpson collected statistics of more than 2,000 
amputations performed in hospitals' and more than 2,000 in 
country practice. His analysis seemed to prove that the 
mortality was larger in hospitals than in private houses, and 
that it increased exactly in proportion to the size of the 
hospitals.t He asserted that " the man laid on the operating- 
table in one of our surgical hospitals is exposed to more 
chances of death than the English soldier on the field of 
Waterloo." His remedy lay in the replacement of the 
hospital by small iron huts to accommodate one or two 
patients each, and these were to be pulled down and re-erected 
periodically. The substitution of the hospital by the hut was 
a heroic remedy, but that it should be suggested at all proved 
the gravity of the issue. " The question of hospitalism," 
writes Sir Rickman Godlee, " however, was one of special 
interest for obstetric physicians (like Simpson) owing to 
the fearful mortality from puerperal fever in most of the 
large lying-in hospitals. The controversy with regard to the 
nature and cause of this disease had been carried on with 
unnecessary bitterness for twenty years and more ; it was still 
raging, and was continued for many years to come. The 

* R. Vallery-Radot, Life of Pasteur, p. 235. f Ibid., p. 236. 
J Sir J. Y. Simpson, Works, II, pp. 289-392. 


storm centre was the doctrine of one of those unfortunate 
geniuses who happen to light upon a truth prematurely, but 
are not gifted by nature with the ability to proclaim it con- 
vincingly to the world. Many of those pioneers, whom 
succeeding generations glorified as heroes, have sunk under 
the burden of perverse misrepresentation and neglect." * 

Some teachers have been so bound up with their own 
generation that they have been strangers in the outer world 
like plants which flourish in one zone and die in the next. 
Their message may have been effectual, but it was provincial ; 
their accent may have been forceful, but it was a dialect. 
Other teachers have had such a breadth of thought, such a 
grasp of principles, that their work could not be confined 
to a small corner of the earth. Such was Ignaz Phillip 
Semmelweis. Between the man and his time there must be 
a certain correspondence. Nothing is more pathetic than 
the experience of one who has arrived too soon, delivering a 
message which will be understood to-morrow, but which 
to-day is a dream ; attempting a work which to-morrow the 
world will welcome, which to-day it considers madness. 
Such was the fate of Semmelweis. Nothing is more ironical 
than the effort of one who has arrived too late, for whom 
there was an audience yesterday, for whose cause there 
was an opportunity ; but now the audience has dispersed, and 
the field is taken ; he has missed his tide, and for him another 
will not come. 

The tragedy of Semmelweis's life is that he arrived too 
soon, not too late. Born in Buda-Pesth in 1818, in 1846 
he was assistant in the huge lying-in hospital in Vienna, to 
which about 7,000 women were admitted annually. It con- 
sisted of two divisions. In the first the male students were 
admitted, and in the second the midwives were admitted. In 
the latter the mortality was constantly much less than in the 
former. For the six years from 1841 to 1846 the average 
was 3.38 compared with 9.92. The monthly average 
reached the appalling total of 25 to 30 per cent. Naturally 
expecting mothers shrank from the first division. Semmel- 
weis felt'puzzled by the different rates of mortality. " All this 
reduced me/' he owned, " to such an unhappy frame of mind 
as to make my life unenviable. Everywhere questions 
* Sir R. Godlee, Lord Lister, p. 137. 


arose; everything remained without explanation; all was 
doubt and difficulty. Only the great number of the dead was 
an undoubted reality." * 

When pondering over the ver& causes, a colleague died 
of septicaemia following a poisoned wound received while 
making a post-mortem examination, and Semmelweis per- 
ceived that the disease was identical with puerperal fever and 
due to the same cause, infection from without. " In my 
excited state of mind/ 5 he owns, " it flashed across me with 
irresistible clearness that the disease of which Kolletschka 
had died was identical with that from which I had seen so 
many hundreds of lying-in women perish." 

Questions suggested themselves to the mind of Semmel- 
weis. What forms of antisepsis should be used? Was the 
eighteenth century, in this respect at least, wiser than the 
nineteenth? Was chlorine water the best antiseptic? Was 
infective matter from a dead body the chief cause of disease 
as he met it? Was puerperal fever caused by decomposed 
animal organic matter regardless of origin, whether from the 
dead body or from a living person affected with a disease 
which produced a decomposed animal organic matter? He 
provided answers to these questions that ought to have 
satisfied the practitioners of his day. They remained un- 
satisfied. He was not an author. He was a scientist who 
had made a valuable discovery, but he was not able to clothe 
it with the words that won assent for it. His instructions 
were carried out by men with no hearty belief in them, and 
Lister was never more right than in Semmelweis's case when 
he laid down that two great requisites for the medical 
profession were a warm loving heart and the pursuit of 
truth in an earnest spirit. Semmelweis trusted the diffusion 
of his views to his pupils and his friends. Among the latter 
were three men of outstanding rank in Vienna, Hebra, Skoda, 
and Rokitanski. They adopted Semmelweis's ideas, but they 
did so from the special angle of cadaveric infection. His ideas 
became lop-sided, and lent themselves therefore to mis- 
apprehension. Ridicule and persecution befell Jenner and 
Simpson, and it befell Semmelweis. Deprived of his 
appointment, he left Vienna in 1850, and set out for Buda- 

* "Die Aetiologie, der Begriff, und die Prophylaxis des Kindbett- 
fiebers," Pest. Wien, u. Leipzig; C. A. Hartleben's Verlags-Expedition, 
1861, p. 51. 


Pesth, his native city. His work for the future was to lie on 
a smaller scale. His work had to be done, and he did it with 
that whole-hearted devotion that characterised him even in 
adversity. On his honeymoon in 1856 Lister visited 
Rokitanski. By then Semmelweis had left Vienna, and 
Rokitanski never mentioned him to Lister. It was one of 
those lost opportunities that do not return, for possibly if the 
two had met Lister's work in 1865 would have been antici- 
pated by nine years. On what small events do great oppor- 
tunities turn ! 

In 1 86 1 Semmelweis* published his magnum opus, " Die 
Aetiologie, der Begriff, und die Prophylaxis des Kind- 
bettfiebers," and the outcome of publication was the even 
fiercer attacks that its poor author had already encountered. 
Incensed by them, he met them by pungent " open letters " 
which simply deepened the antipathy to his views. For four 
years he continued, almost unsupported, to face mis- 
apprehensions of his labours, and the outcome was that his 
mind became unhinged. The body of Semmelweis was put 
under restraint. By a strange coincidence he passed away 
in August 1865, from the effects of blood-poisoning follow- 
ing a wound in his finger inflicted in the course of his duty. 
He was a martyr to his professional duty, in the ordinary 
sense of the term, and he was a martyr in a higher sense 
of the term. For he really died from the assaults of pro- 
fessional men who were neither afraid nor ashamed to be 
the means of the death of one of the heroic spirits of the 
nineteenth century. Virchow, even Virchow, had sneered 
at him as " Der Kerl der speculiert" 

Prophets in science in their own day are for the most part 
unheard. After the lapse of a generation and a half the 
scientific world awoke to the greatness of the man who had 
been called " Pesther Narr." Then instead of hurtling 
stones at him, they placed one over his body. The thou- 
sandth part of the compliment paid to him in 1891 would 
have cheered the lonely fresh investigator to fresh efforts on 
behalf of mankind had he heard them during his lifetime. 
The pity of it is that he never heard them. The last words of 
his " Die Aetiologie " are words still able to move us after 

* On Semmelweis cf. Sir W. Sinclair's moving account in his Sem- 
melwefc, his Life and Doctrine. 


the lapse of the sixty-four years since they were penned: 
" When I, with my present -convictions, look back on the past, 
I can only dispel the sadness which falls upon me by gazing 
at the same time into that happy future when within the 
lying-in hospitals, and also outside of them, throughout the 
whole world, only cases of self-infection will occur. . . . But 
if it is not vouchsafed me to look upon that happy time with 
my own eyes, from which misfortune may God preserve 
me, the conviction that such a time must inevitably arrive 
sooner or later after I have passed away will cheer my 
dying hour." 

One is irresistibly reminded of the dying words of Fulton, 
who was the first to apply the steam-engine to ships. In 
vain he besought Napoleon to give his invention a chance. 
Well was it for us that Napoleon was so blind, for Lord 
Acton thinks that the moment Fulton brought his invention 
to the greatest genius in war this earth has ever seen was 
the most dangerous moment of all the long struggle that raged 
from 1793 to 1815. Fulton asked to be buried near the 
waters of the Mississippi, for " I long to hear the plash of the 
wheels near my grave, though I shall never see them/' 

Oblivion fell upon Semmelweis as it fell upon Fulton for 
many a long day, and neither Pasteur nor Lister owed any- 
thing to him. Semmelweis undoubtedly anticipated Lister in 
proving that one form of blood-poisoning did not depend 
on unascertainable causes but on such ascertainable causes 
as abrasions and external wounds ; and in proving that neither 
the size of the hospitals, nor their age, nor their crowded 
wards was due to the demerits of what Simpson termed 

The recognition of sepsis is no new thing on the part of 
Semmelweis. The wine in the parable of the Good Samari- 
tan owed its powers of healing to the antiseptic power of 
alcohol. Benzoin, Friar's Balsam, alcohol, glycerine, chlorine 
and its compounds, iodine, coal-tar with such derivatives as 
carbolic acid all these had been employed. Jules Lemaire 
served as " pharmacien interne des hopitaux de Paris/' and 
then became a pharmaceutical chemist. Another pharma- 
ceutical chemist, Le Beuf of Bayonne, drew his attention to 
coal-tar, and he thereupon conducted an arduous series of 
investigations into the properties of carbolic acid. He 


published his results in two books, and the second of them, 
De I'acide phenique, won so much notice that a second edition 
of it was called for in 1865, within two years of the 
publication of the first. Working pretty empirically, Lemaire 
employed carbolic acid for many different diseases, medical as 
well as surgical. He also used it for hygienic purposes as a 
disinfectant and for the preservation of foodstuffs. It is 
to his credit that in 1860 he proposed the use of a weak 
carbolic solution for the treatment of open wounds, and 
the following year Dr. Declat proposed the same remedy. 

Not a few surgeons in the sixties did not read any foreign 
language, save French, with any degree of fluency. This 
was not the case with Lister, for he read French, German, 
and some Dutch. He travelled abroad repeatedly. This 
makes it all the more remarkable that he never met with the 
articles or the book of Semmelweis. Nor did he meet with 
the writings of Pasteur independently. His colleague, Dr. 
Thomas Anderson, Professor of Chemistry, induced Lister 
to turn his attention to the work of Pasteur. Now in 1856 
for his labours on crystallography Pasteur was of sufficiently 
outstanding position to receive the Rum ford Medal of the 
Royal Society. Apparently had it not been for Anderson, 
Lister might not have read till much later than 1865 the 
writings of one who was preoccupied with the science of the 
problem that concerned Lister as an art. 

Lister's study of inflammation had led him to certain 
definite conclusions regarding wound infection which for 
several years he had publicly taught : 

1. That putrefaction or decomposition which for him 
were then synonymous terms caused suppuration and wound 
infection; and that wound infection did not occur without 

2. That decomposition was, in some unexplained way, 
set up by the air. 

3. That the air alone that is, the gases of the air did 
not give rise to decomposition.* 

Behind these three conclusions there lay the unanswered 
question, What is the mysterious relationship between the 
air and decomposition? 

To Lister's absolute amazement he learnt that the missing 
* I use Sir R. Godlee's summary in his Lord Lister, p. 163. 


half of his conclusions lay in the possession of Pasteur. 
According to the French savant, putrefaction was a fermenta- 
tion. Was it not caused by the minute growth of minute 
microbes which were carried everywhere by the dust floating 
in the air? Was it possible to free the air of this dust by 
any means? What about filtration? What about heat? 
What about some means? For there must be some means of 
freeing the air from pollution. There was room no longer for 
any mystery in the infection of wounds. Did not the air, er 
rather the germs in the air, start all the trouble? In a flash 
he saw that the proper time to employ antiseptics was before 
putrefaction was established, not after. Could he so purify 
the air before it gained access to the wound that putrefaction 
should not have a chance to begin ? Such was the illuminat- 
ing idea that began to dawn upon him. 

Pasteur's discoveries had been nine years before the world 
that wanted them so badly. Erysipelas and gangrene, 
pyaemia and septicaemia were known in every hospital 
throughout the length and the breadth of Europe. Pasteur, 
moreover, had plainly indicated in his interview with 
Napoleon and Eugenie that the end he had in view was the 
extension of his discoveries in fermentation in wine to fer- 
mentation in wounds. " I assured the Emperor that all my 
ambition was to arrive at the knowledge of the causes of 
putrid and contagious diseases. " Sir Rickman Godlee offers 
his explanation, which does not quite satisfy us. We read: 
" In any case it must be remembered that the question of 
fermentation was in the main a very technical one : of vital 
importance to brewers and wine-producers, but apparently far 
enough removed from that of wound-treatment. When at 
last it attracted the attention of scientific men it interested 
primarily chemists and only secondarily physiologists and 
botanists, and lastly, if at all, the medical profession. Busy 
surgeons, at all events, are not in the habit of reading abstruse 
chemical reviews; and physiology advances with such rapid 
strides that the practitioner of medicine makes no pretence 
to keep up with it. Lister himself " he was then holding 
a chair of surgery "was much engrossed with his own 
special occupation and investigations, upon each step of which 
he was in the habit of concentrating the whole of his attention 
for the time. No doubt they involved a fairly wide survey 


of recent physiological work, but they were not likely to 
entice him into the field of chemistry, and they certainly 
left him little time for promiscuous reading." * The defence 
would appeal to us more if Pasteur had not definitely indi- 
cated his intention of applying his conceptions to the world of 
disease. Putrefaction and decomposition in the wine cellar 
were to him precisely the same matter as putrefaction and 
decomposition in the cells of the human body, and his was 
the missing half of the knowledge that Lister sorely required. 

Lister was ignorant of the work that was being done in his 
own decade, though that work vitally concerned him. In 
common with many scientists, even of the year 1925, he was 
equally ignorant of the genesis of such vital work in the 
labours of past scientists. Robert Boyle in 1662 had 
thrown out his flash of inspiration when he gave forth a form 
of the germ theory. Lavoisier, Fabroni, Thenard, Gay- 
Lussac, Cagniard-Latour, Schwann, Liebig, Pasteur all had 
been in the field before Lister, and the experiments of 
Lavoisier ran back to the days of the French Revolution. 
From 1 794 to Lister's time is surely a sufficient interval for 
men to become aware that germs count. Sir Rickman Godlee 
believes, with reason, that " perhaps the most remarkable 
characteristic [of Pasteur] was the intuition with which he 
saw how one discovery led to another. No doubt it is 
especially true in his case that, to quote his own words, ' in 
the field of observation chance only favours the mind which 
is prepared ' ; no doubt he explored the valleys as well as the 
heights, but his apparently infallible instinct suggests the 
quaint apophthegm of Nietzsche, ' in the mountains the 
shortest way is from summit to summit; but for that thou 
needest long legs/ Lister possessed such legs. Was their 
control intuitive? Or, was their control guided? "f 

Pasteur was led on by apparently inevitable steps from 
investigations in crystallography to fermentation in alcohol 
in 1856. In his writings before 1865 Lister found the 
following points : 

Putrefaction is a species of fermentation. 

It is caused by the growth of micro-organisms and does not 
occur independently of their presence. 

* Sir R. Godlee, Lord Lister, p. 164. Contrast p. 172 on Pasteur, 
t Ibid., p. 171. 



The micro-organisms that produce fermentation and 
putrefaction are carried by the air on the dust that floats. 
They also occur on and in solid and liquid substances. 

These micro-organisms can be destroyed by heat and other 
agencies or separated from the air by filtration. 

Certain recognisable organisms produce definite and distinct 
fermentative processes. 

All of these organisms require oxygen. Some of them 
flourish only in the presence of free oxygen (aerobic), others 
only in its absence (anaerobic). The latter acquire their 
oxygen from the bodies which, by their growth, they are 
causing to ferment and putrefy. 

Many natural animal and vegetable products have no 
tendency to ferment or putrefy, even in the presence of 
oxygen, if collected with proper precautions and kept in 
sterilised vessels. 

Spontaneous generation has never been observed to occur, 
and thus may be regarded as a chimera.* 

Lister came to the conclusion, founded on these Pasteurian 
points, that vibrios or micro-organisms caused putrefaction 
and that they swarmed in the air. Such a conclusion seems 
inevitable to us to-day, but it was by no means inevitable 
then. The proof of this remark is easy, for Lister was really 
the only surgeon who drew it.f Besides, we have to bear in 
mind that Pasteur had just given rise to the subject of 
bacteriology. We are apt to think in terms of microbes 
to-day, but the men of 1865 were not at all so inclined to 
think. In fact, we have always to remember that the world 
of the sixties was a pre-Pasteur world. If we remember this 
steadily, we have some means of appreciating the grandeur 
of the simple Listerian conception. Lister showed the way, 
and once he showed the way it was quite straightforward for 
others to walk in his steps. He was, however, pre-eminently 
the pathfinder, and as such we hold him in honour. Men 
could make an egg stand on its end after Columbus showed 
them how, but emphatically it was Columbus that showed 
them how. The honour is always to the pioneer. The anti- 
septic system is Lister's, we prefer to give it in his own 
words : " In the course of an extended investigation into the 

* This is Sir R. Godlee's summary on p. 177. 
t Spencer Wells is a possible exception. 


nature of inflammation, and the healthy and morbid con- 
ditions of the blood in relation to it, I arrived several years 
ago at the conclusion that the essential cause of suppuration 
in wounds is decomposition, brought about by the influence of 
the atmosphere upon blood or serum retained within them, 
and, in the case of contused wounds, upon portions of tissue 
destroyed by the violence of the injury. 

" To prevent the occurrence of suppuration, with all its 
attendant risks, was an object manifestly desirable; but till 
lately apparently unattainable, since it seemed hopeless to 
attempt to exclude the oxygen, which was universally 
regarded as the agent by which putrefaction was effected. 
But when it had been shown by the researches of Pasteur that 
the septic property of the atmosphere depended, not on the 
oxygen or any gaseous constituent, but on minute organisms 
suspended in it, which owed their energy to their vitality, 
it occurred to me that decomposition in the injured part might 
be avoided without excluding air, by applying as a dressing 
some material capable of destroying the life of the floating 

" Upon this principle I have based a practice of which 
I will now attempt to give a short account." * 

How was he to get rid of the germs present in the air when 
it approached wounds? There were three methods heat, 
filtration, and treatment by a chemical antiseptic. He chose 
the last because it was at the moment the most practicable, and 
the chemical antiseptic he chose was carbolic acid, which his 
colleague, Dr. Thomas Anderson, supplied. 

The very first occasion on which he used carbolic acid 
in the treatment of a compound fracture was in March 1865, 
but he had a much better instance of its worth in the spring 
of 1866. The pleasure with which he welcomed the relief 
his discovery gave is evident in the letter he wrote to his 
father on May 27 : " There is one of my cases at the In- 
firmary which I am sure will interest thee. It is one of 
compound fracture of the leg: with a wound of considerable 
size and accompanied by great bruising, and great effusion of 
the blood into the substance of the limb, causing great swelling. 
Though hardly expecting success, I tried the application of 

* British Medical Journal, 1867, II, p. 246; Lister, Collected Papers, 
II, p. 37. 


carbolic acid to the wound, to prevent decomposition of the 
blood, and so avoid the fearful mischief of suppuration 
through the limb. Well, it is now 8 days since the accident, 
and the patient has been going on exactly as if there were 
no external wound, that is as if the fracture was a simple 
one. His appetite, sleep, etc., good, and the limb daily 
diminishing in size, while there is no appearance whatever 
of any matter forming. Thus a most dangerous accident 
seems to have been entirely deprived of its dangerous 
elements." * 

The treatment was adopted in case after case, and the 
results were uniformly successful. Such results had never 
been obtained before by any surgeon, and we can well imagine 
the thankfulness that welled from the heart of the discoverer 
to God when he realised that he was in a fair way to banish 
the noxious effects of the germs that had devastated every 
hospital in Europe. " For many years afterwards/' records 
Sir Rickman Godlee, " many who had not seen Lister's 
practice or obtained similar results themselves positively did 
not believe that his account of it could be accurate. They had 
been accustomed to see the opening of such an abscess 
followed in a day or two by a profuse and evil-smelling dis- 
charge, instead of which under the new treatment they were 
told that only a small quantity of inodorous clear serum, 
perhaps only a few drops, escaped at each changing of the 
dressing. They had been accustomed to see the patient pass 
at once into a hectic state, from which he was too often only 
relieved by death. Under the new treatment they heard 
instead of a gradual improvement in general health, while case 
after case was brought to a successful conclusion. It was 
perhaps naturally thought that Lister's enthusiasm had made 
him forget failures and exaggerate successes." f As Newton 
disclosed to us the new heavens and as Darwin disclosed to 
us the new earth, so Pasteur and Lister disclosed to us the 
new redemption of man. 

In the memorable paper in the Lancet,^, which appeared 
in a series of articles between March and July 1867, he 
records what had actually happened as well as giving a 

* Sir R. Godlee, Lord Lister, p. 187. 

t Ibid., p. 190. 

j Lister, Collected Papers, II. 


balanced survey of the causes of infection. Out of eleven 
cases, two had suffered from hospital gangrene and one had 
died of haemorrhage four months after the accident. This 
explains his saying, " I have had some rather sorrowful 
experience in bringing the method of treatment to a trust- 
worthy state." Still, he had obtained nine successes out of 
eleven consecutive cases, and this constituted an event of the 
deepest significance. 

Urged by his father-in-law, he prepared a paper on the 
antiseptic principle in surgery which he read before the 
British Medical Association meeting in Dublin in August 
1867. Criticised as it was by men like Sir James Simpson, 
this paper on the whole was well received. Criticism, well- 
informed and ill-informed, soon made its appearance. The 
Lancet recognised what Lister had accomplished, and then 
proceeded to mix up the discovery of the antiseptic principle 
with the discovery of the use of carbolic acid. The Medical 
Times and Gazette wrote : " We cannot concede to him the 
credit of having introduced to the Medical public carbolic 
acid as a local application." * 

Provoked by the attacks made upon him, Lister wrote an 
unguarded letter which characterised, without mentioning 
names, Simpson's assault on antiseptics as a feeble attempt 
to decry them as useless. Stung by this reply and fearing 
that the new system might threaten the place of his favourite 
invention of acupressure, Simpson wrote to Lister on June 
1 6, 1865, on behalf of it. In turn, Simpson was forced to 
undergo the pains of mortification, for men hinted that his 
work on acupressure had been anticipated by an Italian sur- 
geon, Giovanni de Vigo, in the sixteenth century. Besides, 
though acupressure had been employed in Aberdeen, it had 
not been much employed in either Edinburgh or Glasgow. 
Was not Syme in as leading a position in Edinburgh as Lister 
was in Glasgow ? Did not father-in-law and son-in-law form 
a conspiracy to condemn a rival remedy? 

In September 1867 there appeared an anonymous letter in 
the Edinburgh Daily Review, nominally signed by Chirurgicus 
but really signed by Simpson, and this letter accused Lister of 
appropriating credit for what had really been accomplished 
by Lemaire of Paris. According to Simpson, Lemaire 
* Medical Times and Gazette, 1867, II, p. 355. 


" points out very fully and elaborately its power of destroying 
microscopic living organisms, germs, or sporules adduces 
the opinions of Pasteur, Helmholtz, Schultze, Schwann, etc., 
and shows its utility in arresting suppuration in surgery, and 
as a dressing to compound fractures and wounds. He dwells 
upon its use in many other diseases, medical and surgical/ 1 * 
The last sentence is true, but who would recognise Lemaire's 
De I'acide phenique in the first? Certainly not Lemaire 
himself. Richard Bentley was fond of saying that no man 
was ever written down save by himself, and his saying is 
most true. No antagonist ever wrote Simpson down so 
much as himself by his conduct in this controversy. 

As Lister had never heard of Pasteur till a colleague in- 
formed him of his extensive labours, so he had never heard 
of Lemaire till a rival informed him. 

Neither of Lemaire's works was to be found in the library 
of Glasgow University, and he had to send to Edinburgh 
for them. In the Lancet in October 1867, Simpson returned 
to the attack on antiseptics.f He accused Lister of gross 
ignorance of medical literature, and he accused him of being 
the appropriator of another man's ideas. In fact, Lister's 
theory was neither new nor true. What was new in it if 
there was anything was not true, and what was true in it 
undoubtedly belonged to Lemaire. In any case was not 
acupressure an infinitely better remedy than any antiseptic? 

The big hound had barked disapproval, and the lesser 
hounds hastened to follow his example. Their barks ap- 
peared in the Lancet, and here are some of them: 

" Mr. R. has occasionally sponged the wound, in the 
operating theatre, before applying the sutures, but not 
having found any advantage arise from it, he has discontinued 
the practice." J 

" Mr. C. does not approve of Lister's method, which he 
considers meddlesome. Mr. C.'s experience is that wounds 
unite readily when left alone. " 

" A considerable portion of cases have been attended with 
very satisfactory results; some have conformed in every 

* Sir R. Godlee, Lord Lister, p. 202. 
t Lancet, 1867, II, p. 546. 
t Ibid., 1868, II, p. 634- 
Ibid., 1868, II, p. 728. 


respect with the theory of action promulgated by Professor 
Lister; but in a good number of instances, while the anti- 
septic action has been uniformly effective in utterly destroying 
putrefaction and fetor, yet in regard to its antipurulent 
properties such satisfactory results have not been obtained 
from the putty method." * 

Lister's carbolic acid treatment was shortened to carbolic 
treatment and even to the putty method, a phrase that re- 
flected the ignorance of those who used it. Lister felt 
grievously hurt by the controversy, and on October 13, 1867, 
he wrote to his father : " I think I have now said all that I am 
called upon to say, and if I feel sure of that I shall be willing 
to let people think and talk as they please, and devote myself 
with fresh ardour to the work that remains to be done 
in the way of perfecting the methods of the treatment. It 
is long since I gave up any idea of having any work I might 
do measured according to its deserts, whatever they might be : 
and I have always felt that for the editors of these medical 
journals to take no notice at all of any articles I might write 
was the best that could happen; so that the good, if there 
was any, in my work might quietly produce its effect in 
improving the knowledge and treatment ^of disease. ' Fame 
is no plant that grows on mortal soil ' is a passage thee quoted 
to me in a letter many years ago. . . . 

" . . . I quite agree with what thee say about perfect 
candour in a discussion of this kind. But the truth is I 
never thought of such a thing as any merit attaching to 
happening to be the first to apply carbolic acid, whether to a 
sore, a wound, a fracture, or an abscess. Various anti- 
septic lotions have long been in use in surgical practice, and 
as soon as the antiseptic powers of carbolic acid became 
known, it could not be but that many surgeons would try it, 
as they had tried other antiseptics. Supposing that I had 
made the experiment with one of the antiseptics in ordinary 
use, say chloride of zinc, I really think it likely I should have 
got very much the same results, had I gone upon the same 
principles. And supposing I had afterwards learnt that 
some other surgeon had previously dabbled a preparation of 
chloride of zinc upon one or two compound fractures, but 
upon an entirely erroneous principle and so as to lead to no 

* Lancet, 1868, II, p. 763. 


practical result, this would not at all have interfered with my 
originality in the plan of treatment." * 

Still, Lister must have felt cheered by a question asked by 
the Lancet on the results obtained in the Dowlais Iron 
Works. " Mr. Cresswell, whose surgical experience is very 
great, says that the use of carbolic acid in the treatment of 
wounds has revolutionised surgical practice at Dowlais. And 
yet Mr. Lister's treatment does not find much favour in 
London. Are the conditions of suppuration different here 
from those in Glasgow or Dowlais? Or is it that the 
antiseptic treatment is not tried with that care without which 
Mr. Lister has always pointed out it does not succeed? " f 

In 1866 the chair of Systematic Surgery at University 
College, London, fell vacant. It was Lister's old college, and 
if one looked at his standing in Glasgow University com- 
bined with the outcome of his researches it seemed as if he 
possessed a strong claim to the vacancy. On the other hand, 
John Marshall, a capable if not an outstanding surgeon, was 
also a candidate, and he had already served as assistant 
surgeon for eighteen years. In the issue Marshall was 
elected, though in the light of after events such an appoint- 
ment makes curious reading. Lister's father-in-law consoled 
him : " I am glad you take this conduct on the part of U.C. 
in the right way, not as a discouragement but as an induce- 
ment to exertion. In the end you may not improbably have 
reason to feel grateful for not being allowed to quit your 
present position. It is a great field, much greater for hospital 
practice than you could possibly have had in London and 
also much more favourable for the acquisition or, as I 
should rather say, the extension of professional character. 
London has its advantages no doubt, but, when these are com- 
pared with its disadvantages, your present position, I sin- 
cerely believe, is more fruitful of rational happiness. In 
order to maintain a good metropolitan place it is necessary 
to do a great deal of dirty work which I am quite sure you 
would decline and therefore have the discomfort of all sorts 
of worthless persons puffed up as your equals, or superiors, 
while at present you are perfectly secure from such conse- 
quences. It was such considerations that led me to return 

* Sir R. Godlee, Lord Lister, p. 205. 
t Ibid., p. 207. 


from London, and they should, I think, reconcile you to not 
going there/' * 

On the resignation of Syme in 1869 Sir James Simpson 
was bold enough to propose that the chair of surgery Syme 
held in Edinburgh University should be abolished! Seem- 
ingly he was afraid that the son-in-law of his detested rival 
should be appointed, though it does seem amazing that the 
holder of the chair of midwifery should be anxious on any 
pretext whatever to put an end to the chair of surgery. It 
was the misfortune of many to see in his nature ever the 
malevolent Mr. Hyde, while to others he possessed the be- 
nignant figure of Dr. Jekyll. Though Sir James Simpson 
was prepared to go to such lengths, Lister was appointed. 
The Professor of Materia Medica at Anderson's University, 
Dr. James Morton, had been Surgeon to the Glasgow Royal 
Infirmary. How little he cared to keep in touch with progress 
in his profession is evident from the circumstance that he 
never set foot in one of Lister's wards in order to observe for 
himself what sort of treatment the antiseptic was. This did 
not in the least prevent his stating that " Pasteur's theory 
in regard to the existence of certain spores or germs in the 
air " had not been proved to his satisfaction.! Even if 
there were germs, they were neither injurious nor did they 
cause " suppuration of a bad kind." The astounding point is 
that a colleague of Lister's should stoop to make such an 
attack without knowing a single thing practically of anti- 
septic treatment. There are none so blind as those who 
won't see, and Morton belonged to this terrible variety of 
scientific man. 

At the meeting of the British Medical Association at Leeds 
in 1869, Nunneley, a prominent surgeon in the city, attacked 
Listerism and Pasteurism. The arguments of Pouchet and 
Hughes Bennett (1812 1875), the Professor of Physiology 
in Edinburgh, who opposed the germ theory,$ were put 
forward. Careful physician and physiologist, Bennett was a 
careless controversialist, who did not fail to stir up much 
antagonism. Nunneley admitted that he had never tried 

* Sir R. Godlee, Lord Lister, p. 211. 
t Ibid., p. 250. 

t J. H. Bennett, " The Atmospheric Germ Theory " (Edin. Med. Jour., 
1868, XIIJ, p, 816), Cf. Brit. Med. Jour., 1869, II, p. 256. 


the antiseptic .method, but his colleagues had ! Their results 
were unsatisfactory, and its employment in Leeds was 
exceptional. Writers in the local press, even from Glasgow, 
supported Nunneley. 

Simpson passed away in May 1870, and Syme in the 
following June. " The two most outstanding personalities, 
Syme and Simpson, had both received unmistakable warn- 
ings that their warfare was accomplished, . . ." writes Sir 
Rickman Godlee. " The removal of these two men, as it 
were, cleared the atmosphere of the medical world in Edin- 
burgh, and in very different ways affected Lister's position 
there. Syme and Simpson had for the most part been in 
conflict, and each had so many devoted followers that it 
was not easy to avoid being a partisan of one or the other. 
This led to a cleavage in the ranks of the profession and 
some bitter feelings, which only gradually declined after the 
disappearance of the protagonists. 

" This is not the place to form an estimate of Simpson's 
character. Few men who could claim so many friends had 
so many detractors. For the former he was the embodiment 
of all the virtues ; the latter were unable to speak of him with 
moderation. We have already seen the position which he 
took up with regard to Lister and his work, and the way in 
which he conducted his opposition. If he had lived longer 
and they had been constantly thrown together in the Univer- 
sity and civic affairs, it is hardly to be supposed that further 
causes of friction could have been avoided. Simpson was 
one who entered into such contests con amore; to Lister 
they were repugnant and distressing to the highest degree. 

" The death of Syme was an unmixed sorrow. Coming 
as it did, soon after that of his own father, it emphasised the 
fact that the last link with the preceding generation was 
severed. It was one of Lister's characteristics to admire 
some men with a whole-hearted devotion that hardly admitted 
the possibility of faults, and Syme was conspicuously one 
of these. In the Scotsman of June 28, 1870, there was an 
obituary notice the authorship of which was attributed to 
Lister, and was never disowned by him. ... It ends with the 
following words : * ' The hostility which he excited in a few 
was greatly outweighed by the friendship he inspired in the 
* Sir R. Godlee, Lord Lister, p. 253. 


many. Rarely is it granted to any one to attach to himself 
the enduring love and admiration of so large a number of 
his fellow-men.' " * 

Lister, on his father-in-law's death, stepped into his posi- 
tion as the first surgeon in Scotland. At Edinburgh Univer- 
sity he numbered among his medical and surgical colleagues 
men like Patrick Heron Watson and James Spence, Matthews 
Duncan and Thomas Keith. The physicians included men of 
rank equal to that of the surgeons, for they were Laycock 
and Fraser, and Grainger Stewart. " It was," in the com- 
petent opinion of Sir Rickman Godlee, " a self-contained, 
highly intellectual University circle somewhat cliquish, no 
doubt, but becoming less so. The conflicts of the past were 
not completely forgotten, but a calmer and more charitable 
spirit was descending upon Edinburgh, as well as upon the 
rest of the scientific world. Doctors, at all events, were be- 
coming accustomed to the idea " in the year of grace 
1870 " that it was not only possible, but far best, to conduct 
their discussions in moderate language unblemished by 
personalities." t 

The master requires disciples if his teaching is to prevail. 
If the pupils possess the graceful style of a Huxley or the 
attractive eloquence of a Tyndall, so much the better for the 
diffusion of his views. Darwin was supremely fortunate in 
owning such a master of English as Huxley as his disciple, 
for Huxley constituted himself " Darwin's bull-dog." Just 
as Darwin's motto was peace at any price, so Huxley's was 
war whatever its cost. Though Lister himself wrote many 
articles, he never wrote a book. Darwin wrote inter alia 
the Origin of Species, and Sir J. D. Hooker and T. H. 
Huxley are not the only readers who found it to be a tough 
morsel to digest. * John Tyndall (1820 1893) came to the 
rescue of Lister, as Huxley came to the rescue of Darwin, 
and rendered Lister undoubted assistance. Attractive as a 
writer, Tyndall was even more attractive as a speaker. While 
engaged upon a series of striking experiments on the decom- 
position of vapours by light, he observed that a luminous 
beam, passing through the motionless air of his experimental 

* R. Paterson, Memorials of the Life of J. Symc, p. 327. 

t Sir R. Godlee, Lord Lister, p. 254. 

j L. Huxley, Life and Letters of T. H. Huxley, II, p. 192. 


tube, was invisible. The happy thought occurred to him 
that such a beam might be utilised to detect the presence 
of germs in the atmosphere. For air incompetent 
to scatter light, through the absence of all floating 
particles, must be free from bacteria and their germs. 
Experiment after experiment yielded the conclusion that 
" optically pure " air is incapable of developing bacterial 
life. In properly protected vessels infusions of fish, flesh, and 
vegetables, freely exposed after boiling to air rendered mote- 
less by subsidence, and declared to be so by the invisible 
passage of a powerful electric beam, remained permanently 
pure and unaltered. On the other hand, when the identical 
liquids were exposed afterwards to ordinary dust-laden air, 
they soon swarmed with bacteria. In spite of these experi- 
ments and in spite of the experiments of Pasteur and Lister, 
Dr. Bastian could still persist in the belief in spontaneous 

As Huxley thought that a cobbler like Kelvin ought to 
stick to his last in the shape of physics, and not intermeddle 
with geology, some scientists thought that a cobbler like 
Tyndall ought to stick to his last in the shape of physics, and 
not intermeddle with bacteriology. The Lancet furiously de- 
nounced Tyndall for stepping outside his province. Even 
Lister wrote to his brother : " It is almost a pity that Tyndall 
should have meddled with things beyond his beat." * Tyndall 
himself pertinently pointed out : " My own interference with 
this great question, while sanctioned by many eminent names, 
has been the object of varied and ingenious attack. On this 
point I will only say that when angry feeling escapes from 
behind the intellect, where it may be useful as an urging 
force, and places itself athwart the intellect, it is liable to 
produce all manner of delusions. Thus my censors, for the 
most part, have levelled their attacks against positions which 
were never assumed, and against claims which never were 
made." f To this position we can guess how sympathetically 
Jenner and Simpson, Lyell and Helmholtz, Darwin and 
Pasteur would have listened, for had they not all suffered 

* Sir R Godlee, Lord Lister, p. 280. 

t J. Tyndall, Essays on the Floating Matter in the Air in Relation to 
Putrefaction and Infection, p. 27. 


grievously " when angry feeling escapes from behind the 

It is amazing to note how the specialist scientist seems 
to imagine that no one, save the man working in his own 
narrow field, possesses the slightest right to examine or, 
worse still, criticise his results and the conceptions under- 
lying them. Darwin used to contend that intelligent men 
were those who most readily gave adhesion to his views, 
while those whose studies qualified them to grasp particular 
portions of his investigation, for the most part, stood aloof. 
The curse of science is the narrow-minded specialist who 
cannot see a single inch beyond his nose. Such a man is 
absolutely of the mind of Cardinal Newman, who did not 
ask to see the distant scene. His aim is : 

Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom, 

Lead thou me on; 
The night is dark and I am far from home, 

Lead thou me on. 

Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see 
The distant scene; one step enough for me. 

The man who is going to leave his mark in science must 
be a man capable of watching the distant scene as well as 
watching the ground under his feet. Tyndall did see the 
distant scene, and therefore he wrote with strength : " I am 
dealing with a question on which minds accustomed to weigh 
the value of experimental evidence are alone competent 
to decide, and regarding which, in its present condition, minds 
so trained are as capable of forming an opinion as regarding 
the phenomena of magnetism or radiant heat. ' The germ 
theory of disease/ it has been said, ' appertains to the biologist 
and the physician/ Where, I would ask in reply, is the 
biologist or physician, whose researches, in connection with 
this subject, could for one instant be compared to those of the 
chemist Pasteur? It is not the philosophic members of the 
medical profession who are dull to the reception of the truth 
not originated within the pale of the profession itself." * 
Herein Tyndall was seriously mistaken. For do we not find 
such philosophic members of the profession as Sir James 
Simpson and James Morton, and Hughes Bennett, not to 
speak of such men as Mr. R. and Mr. C, all stoutly opposed 

* J. Tyndall, Essays on the Floating Matter in the Air in Relation to 
Putrefaction and Infection, p. 42. 


to the reception of truth not originated within the pro- 

Tyndall intervened in the dispute about germs possibly 
because he was an Alpine climber and probably because he 
cared to seek a general view of truth. " II faut cultiver 
notre jar din " is the motto of some scientists who only 
cultivate the merest patch. " II faut cultiver notre jardin " 
is the motto of some scientists who, though they do not 
cultivate the whole of their garden, insist in taking a com- 
prehensive survey of it. The Tyndall type is surely the 
finer type of the two. Such a type seeks truth, but he 
seeks truth that enables him to glance all around him. He 
seeks truth, but he seeks it with beauty. In fact, the scientist 
is at bottom a creative artist who takes a Terentian view of 
his domain. " Le savant," wrote the wonderful Henri 
Poincare, " n'etudie pas la nature parce que cela est utile; il 
Tetudie parce qu'il y prend plaisir, et il y prend plaisir qu'elle 
est belle. Si la nature n'etait pas belle, elle ne vaudrait pas 
la peine d'etre connue, la vie ne vaudrait la peine d'etre 
vecue." There is, of course, the bread-and-butter view of 
science, but does man either in science or for the matter 
of that in anything else live by bread alone? 

A colleague of Lister, Thomas Keith, had done remarkable 
pioneer work in ovariotomy. Keith and Spencer Wells 
had skilfully reduced the mortality rate in this operation 
to 30 per cent. It is a measure of the progress of surgery 
to say that the present rate is 5 per cent. Yet there are 
sceptics who tell us that the main task of the surgeon has 
been to devise complex operations for the fresh diseases 
he has discovered, darkly hinting that he himself is, in some 
mysterious fashion, the cause of these diseases. Keith's 
success was partly due to his manual dexterity and partly 
due to his amazing attention to all manner of details, 
especially in the matter of cleanliness. By 1870 he had 
reduced his mortality after ovariotomy to 16 per cent., which 
was a startling result. Should he, in order to diminish 
even this rate, adopt the antiseptic treatment? Should he 
adopt the spray which created an antiseptic atmosphere? 
Lister himself felt doubtful in this particular instance, for 
the peritoneal cavity possesses natural protections against 
the attacks of micro-organisms. Keith, however, decided 


to adopt the plan of his colleague. According to Lister, 
" on at length adopting strict antiseptic measures with an 
improved spray, for a while he surpassed himself by an 
unbroken series of eighty successful cases. Yet, wonderful 
as this achievement was, it was only a difference in degree 
from his former experience, and assuredly no absolute 
proof of superiority of the new means employed." * Keith 
afterwards abandoned the spray, partly, it is believed, because 
he thought its effect injurious to the patients, partly because 
it was certainly injurious in the highest degree to himself. 
He continued, however, to use the other antiseptic pre- 
cautions, and to this he attributed the superiority of his 
later results. 

As time went on, for we must now look some distance 
ahead, the question was discussed with bitterness, almost with 
ferocity, amongst the ovariotomists. Some, whilst dis- 
owning the antiseptic principle root and branch, apparently 
unconsciously adopted much of its practice; others adopted 
both principle and practice with the exception of the spray, 
and there were yet others who omitted no jot or tittle of 
Lister's methods. Meanwhile it was obvious to candid 
observers, through all this strife of tongues, that, although 
the statistics of the antiseptic surgeons were on the whole 
the best, some at least of their opponents could show very 
excellent results indeed; and this provided a stumbling- 
block to many, though not to Lister.f 

Lister was the very man who insisted in taking a com- 
prehensive view of the garden he so assiduously cultivated. 
Among the many advantages of such a plan, it preserved 
that openness of mind that is so essential in the task of 
discovery. Even the man with the open mind welcomes 
something in accordance with its main bent more cordially 
than something that tells against that main bent. For in 
the course of time an inquiring mind takes up a certain 
attitude to some truths which means, at bottom, that he 
does not care for other truths not quite on the same lines 
as those he adopts. In 1883 Metchnikoff announced his 
discovery of phagocytosis, a discovery that supplemented 

* Lister, Collected Papers, II, p. 276. 

t Sir R. Godlee, Lord Lister, p. 288. Cf. Brit. Med. Jour., 1869, II, 
P. 335. 


the work that Pasteur had begun.* If a proof of the 
internationalism of science is required, here it is. A French 
chemist does part of the task, and a Russian pathologist com- 
plements it. Pasteur had discovered the existence of the 
micro-organism, Metchnikoff had observed the actual contest 
between the invading micro-organisms and the phagocytes 
or defending living cells. If the phagocytes win, they 
devour the micro-organisms. If they lose, the micro- 
organisms devour them. Eat or be eaten such is the law 
of their life. The Russian discoverer afforded Lister 
another proof of the correctness of what he was doing, 
and we can imagine the glee with which he welcomed such 
a result. The use of the spray was causing Lister search- 
ings of heart, but the use of the spray was not fundamental 
to his antiseptic method. If, to take a present-day example, 
Metchnikoff had altered his ideas on germs as much as 
Einstein has altered Newton's ideas, what would have 
happened? Would even Lister's openness of mind have 
stood the test of anything so unwelcome? 

Lister kept his treatment before the members of his 
profession. He delivered, for example, an address before 
the 1871 meeting of the British Medical Association at 
Plymouth, f In 1875 he wrote a paper extending over no 
fewer than seven numbers of the Lancet. $ The same year 
he gave two impressive demonstrations of antiseptic surgery 
before the 1875 meeting of the members of the British 
Medical Association at Edinburgh. The heads of the 
profession listened, and not a few of them went on in their 
accustomed ways. The young graduates came to Glasgow 
to see for themselves, and they were not sufficiently hardened 
by the customs of their profession to keep their eyes blinded 
and their ears shut. 

Sir Rickman Godlee surveys the situation in the seventies, 
and holds : " And yet it is not too much to say that in 
London it [i.e. Listerism] made but little way until these 
younger men had reached a sufficient degree of seniority to 

* Biol. CentrabL, 1883, III, p. 560. 

t Brit. Med. Jour., 1871, II, p. 225; Lister, Collected Papers, II, p. 172. 

J Lancet, 1875, I, pp. 365, 401, 434, 468, 603, 717, 787; Lister, Col- 
lected Papers, p. 206. 

Edin. Med. four., 1875-6, XXI, pp. 193, 481 ; Lister, Collected Papers, 
II, p. 256. 


have the charge of wards, and that, even in Edinburgh and 
Glasgow, some of the old spirit and much of the old practice 
prevailed well on into the seventies, when Lister's old pupils 
began to occupy positions on the full staffs of their hospitals. 

" This may seem strange to those who were not taught by, 
and have not served under, the surgeons of the old school, 
or who do not appreciate the limitations imposed upon 
assistant surgeons in those days. There was not, so to say, 
more than enough of either hospital or private practice, at 
that time, to go round, as there is now; and the seniors 
stuck with much tenacity to their posts, thus allowing but 
little opportunity to the juniors to expand themselves. Night 
and day, Sundays and week days, they would turn out 
to do their ' casualty ' work. Visits to continental schools, 
week-ends in the country, and long summer holidays were 
almost unknown, and the orthodox point of view was that 
of a well-known surgeon who said, ' My moors are in Old 
Burlington Street.' 

"It is only fair to make allowances for these men and 
to add that the description applies only to a class, amongst 
whom there were striking exceptions. They were following 
in the steps of their predecessors. They had been brought 
up to think much of the art and comparatively little of the 
scientific side of surgery. Their minds were not trained 
for the reception of such an abstract idea as that of the 
germ theory, or to weigh the arguments of its supporters 
against the louder and more incessant replies of its opponents. 
For the most part indeed they were convinced that it was the 
dream of cranks and enthusiasts. It was therefore incredible 
to them that the true light had been revealed to such men, 
that their own time-honoured creed about inflammation was 
a delusion, and that a complete change in their methods of 
treatment was essential. 

" Still, for decency's sake, the thing had to be given a 
trial. But it was done in a perfunctory manner, with a 
scornful half-faith or no-faith; and as the new method 
involved great difficulties, even for enthusiastic disciples 
working in the old surroundings, it is no wonder that the 
seniors, almost without exception, failed to obtain Lister's 
results. Their failures caused them but little sorrow, but 
rather the satisfactory feeling that, after all, this new doctrine 



had nothing in it, and that they had not all their lives been 
following cunningly devised fables.* 

" When I was a student full of the confidence of youth, 
and doing my best to educate my superior officer no less 
distinguished a man than Sir John Erichsen I lamentably 
failed with a compound fracture, for reasons now easy to 
recognise, and received from him the stern injunction, ' No 
more antiseptics/ Erichsen was by no means a bigoted 
man, and he was always very friendly to Lister. He was 
simply old-fashioned, and would have paid but little atten- 
tion to, and perhaps hardly have understood, Lister's explana- 
tion of my failure." f 

There is no reason to think, in spite of Sir Rickman 
Godlee's reasoning, that the medical profession is really a 
much more grievous offender in its rejection of the new 
ideas that occasionally come into contact with its members. 
Lyell found the same want of an open mind in geology, 
and the precursors of Darwin found the same want of an 
open mind in evolution as Darwin himself experienced. 
In some respects the case of Joule and Helmholtz is even 
more significant. For the doctrine of the conservation of 
energy did not touch any of the ordinary prejudices of 
scientists, yet Joule and Helmholtz found the same want 
of an open mind as Lyell and Darwin. 

No form of literature is more attractive than autobiography 
when it is thoroughly sincere, as Sir James Paget's is. It 
is this quality combined with its simple style that gives 
this book its literary charm. Sir James takes the reader 
into his confidence and lifts the veil from his early life. As 
he was a man of as rare nobility of character as Lister 
himself, the book in which his character is enshrined is 
extraordinarily well worth reading. His son, Mr. Stephen 
Paget, tells the story of the later life of the great surgeon, 
and the outcome is a volume of surpassing interest. Why 
is it that such typical men of action as soldiers and states- 
men, travellers and adventurers, seldom have great bio- 
graphies? Why is it that the literary and scientific men 
have such great biographies? The lives of Johnson and 
Macaulay stand as high in the class of literary men as Sir 

* I italicise these words. 

t Sir R. Godlee, Lord Lister, p. 315. 


Rickman Godlee's Lord Lister and Mr. Stephen Paget's 
Memoirs and Letters of Sir James Paget stand in the class 
of scientific men. 

We have spent our scanty leisure in reading hundreds of 
the biographies of men and women of all ages, and we 
do not know a single man we respect more than Sir James 
Paget. To us, therefore, it is a personal sorrow to find 
that even he made the following comment on a case of 
compound fracture of the leg treated by Lister's method: 

" Collodion was put on at once, and then carbolic acid 
applied. You know we are trying the effects of carbolic 
acid for compound fractures and some other forms of injury, 
after the manner which has been so strongly recommended 
by Professor Lister. In this case I would say that the 
carbolic acid was applied, if not with all the skill that Pro- 
fessor Lister would employ it, yet with more than is ever 
likely to be generally used in the treatment of fractures; 
and yet it certainly did no good. I will not say that it did 
harm; if it did harm, it was rather through my fault in 
leaving it too long when the wound should have been left 
open to discharge itself. But, at any rate, carbolic acid, 
applied here with a considerable amount of care and skill, 
failed altogether to attain its end; for, three days after the 
fracture, we observed that the limb was becoming the seat 
of inflammation of the acutest kind." * So in 1869 Paget 
informed his students when he gave them a clinical lecture 
at St. Bartholomew's. When the leading surgeon in a 
leading London hospital gave such qualified condemnation 
to Listerism, we can imagine what other surgeons were 
saying at their clinical lectures. As Paget was warmly 
respected by the members of his profession and as his 
language was studiously moderate, the harm he did was 
incalculable. In a similar fashion Tyndall did injury to 
Lister, for his lectures tended to concentrate the attention 
of surgeons upon the air as the prime source of infection. 
With dejection of spirit Lister replied to the lecture of Paget. 
He pointed out imperfections in Paget's treatment of technical 
interest. The fact, however, was that assistant surgeons 

* Sir J. Paget, Clinical Lecture on the Treatment of Fractures of the 
Leg in the Lancet, 1869, I, p. 317. Cf. ibid., 1869, I, p. 380; 1870, I, 
p. 91 J i873, II, P- 182. 


had to be trained in the antiseptic treatment, and occasionally 
they came for a single day to Glasgow, and such a flying 
visit was worse than useless. For it made surgeons con- 
fident that they understood the details to be employed at 
operations, whereas they did nothing of the kind. In any 
revision of the Prayer-Book, there ought to be such a clause 
as " Save me from my friends/' The scientist feels inclined 
to vary this clause, " Save me from my ill-instructed 
friends " (who, of course, fondly believe that they are well- 

We are afraid that the influence of Sir James Paget 
dominated London medical opinion. At any rate, there was 
little progress effected by the antiseptic methods. At the 
1873 meeting of the British Medical Association in London, 
John Wood, of King's College Hospital, spoke unfavourably 
of it.* We are so anxious to represent the contemporary 
attitude of hostility correctly that we venture upon another 
quotation from Sir Rickman Godlee's biography: 

" On the whole, as time went on, there was a tendency 
for apathy to pass into opposition. To mention antiseptic 
surgery was to cause irritation, or at least to elicit a scoff 
or a sneer; and Lister's name became to London surgeons 
like that of Aristides the Just to the Athenians. 

" If any one should think that the case against the majority 
of London surgeons f has been overstated they should read 
the report of a confused debate at the Clinical Society of 
London which took place in 1875.$ The antiseptic system 
was introduced incidentally on the report of certain cases 
supposed to have been treated antiseptically, but in none of 
which the treatment was properly carried out. It is almost 
incredible that the leading London surgeons could unblush- 
ingly discuss such a vital question in so loose a manner. 
It can only be explained by the assumption that they had 
no conception of its importance; and yet the meeting took 
place very shortly after Lister's striking demonstrations to 
the British Medical Association at Edinburgh. The com- 
ments of the Lancet are instructive : 

" ' Mr. Lister and his disciples are themselves to blame 

* Sir R. Godlee, Lord Lister, p. 319. 
t I italicise these words. 
$ Lancet, 1875, II, pp. 562, 628, 737. 
Ibid., 1875, II, P. 565. 


for much of the obscurity that overshadows this question, 
inasmuch as they have never yet openly and fairly met the 
challenges that have been thrown out to them to produce 
the statistical results of their practices, say, for five or six 
years past. . . . Notwithstanding the very able papers on 
the recent improvement in the details of antiseptic surgery 
which Mr. Lister lately published in these columns, followed 
as they were by demonstrations at Edinburgh at the meetings 
of the British Medical Association, there is less antiseptic 
surgery practised in the metropolitan hospitals than ever 
there was/ 

" The article goes on to refer to other rival systems, such 
as the ' open method ' advocated by Humphry of Cambridge, 
that of Spence who used warm water and tincture of iodine, 
or that of Callender who trusted to cleanliness alone, for 
all of which brilliant results had been claimed. Further 
on it is said, ' Oddly enough, there is at least one metropolitan 
hospital where one surgeon follows, strictly and exclusively, 
Lister's plan, and the other surgeons as persistently reject 
it. Here, one would think, there is some ground on which 
to stand and view impartially the merits of the two modes 
of practice. What is the result? After the experience of 
several years, not to put too fine a point on the matter, it 
is found that the success of the antiseptic system is certainly 
not greater than that of the ordinary methods, and it is 
stated to be actually less/ 

" The following week the Lancet returned to the charge : 
* Happily, it is no part of the business of the clinical surgeon 
to bolster up theories, be they good or bad, or to make 
facts rigidly conform to them. The germ theory may be 
perfectly well founded ; but nine surgeons out of ten do not 
care much whether it is or not, so long as they cure their 
cases and reduce their mortality to the lowest possible 
degree/ * In these words, ' such is the measured judgment 
of Sir Rickman Godlee/ the mental attitude of the average 
London surgeon in 1875 was accurately described/' f Nor 
can we forget that one of the leading London surgeons, 
Sir James Paget, and one of the leading Edinburgh sur- 
geons, Sir James Simpson, had pronounced similar verdicts. 

* Lancet, 1875, II, p. 597- 

t Sir R. Godlcc, Lord Lister, p. 320 ff. 


Now we can well understand that in the case of rare 
diseases like Vincent's angina and bulbar paralysis, elephan- 
tiasis and exfoliative dermatitis, a surgeon should suspend 
his judgment. But the diseases Lister set out to combat 
were of everyday occurrence, and were levying a frightful 
toll of death throughout the whole of Europe. Of course 
it is difficult to obtain exact figures, but the following rough- 
and-ready ones are sufficient to enable us to grasp the gravity 
of the situation facing every surgeon, wherever he was 
practising. The result was that a mortality of 24 to 26 per 
cent, of cases of major amputations of limbs was considered 
very satisfactory in London. In Edinburgh the death-rate 
after such operations was 43 per cent. ; in Glasgow, 39 per 
cent. ; in Paris, 60 per cent. ; in Zurich, 46 per cent. ; and 
in Vienna, 43 per cent. In the Army, the death-rate some- 
times reached such appalling proportions as 75 to 90 per cent. 
Nobody, save the antiseptic people, quite knew why. Surely 
it constitutes a grave indictment of the medical profession 
during the seventies, when Listerism was well under way, 
to note how callously the average surgeon behaved when 
what promised to be a remedy was put before him. One 
would have thought that he was prepared to try anything 
whatever if it gave the least promise of a cure for such 
terrible rates of mortality. It was not enough to read 
about Listerism. We should have thought that surgeons 
would have emigrated on the spot to Glasgow or to Edin- 
burgh in order to learn at first-hand the proper fashion to 
employ the antiseptic apparatus. One thinks of the patients 
who suffered from erysipelas and gangrene, septicaemia and 
purulent infection, and one sorrowfully reflects on all the 
lives that might have been saved had surgeons preserved 
somewhat of an open mind. One patient lingered on in 
pain and discomfort. Another counted the days of sick- 
ness, not by pain and weariness, but by the sufferings of 
those who were left at home without a guide, and, perhaps, 
starving. Suffering there is and there, one supposes, must 
be, but what are we to say to avoidable suffering? If, to 
use a pregnant remark of King Edward, preventable, why 
not prevent it? 

There is the man who can criticise and there is the man 
who can construct, and we must never forget that there 


is a legitimate place for criticism. For often before a 
reform can be effected old obstructions must be swept away, 
and in this task of destruction the work of the critic is 
essential. To take an historical example, the destruction 
wrought by the men of the first French Revolution was 
necessary if any true conception of liberty was to become a 
working reality. For that work men like Diderot paved 
the way, though Voltaire did much less than people imagine. 
For though he attacked much that deserved attack, at heart 
he was a dogmatist of dogmatists, a fact that seems to 
escape Lord Morley in his penetrating study of the French 
satirist. Still, though there is the critic who is wanted, is 
there not a critic who is not wanted, the critic who simply 
spends his own time and wastes that of others in 
criticising? Lister, like all pioneers, met this class of critic. 
Sir William Scovell Savory (1826 1895) did not quite 
belong to this class. In that wonderful year, 1859, he 
succeeded Sir James Paget as lecturer on general anatomy 
and physiology at St. Bartholomew's Hospital. Though 
his lectures differed from those of his great predecessor, 
they were no less admired by those who attended them. The 
emolument he received for his clinical duties and lectures 
in 1 88 1 -2 exceeded 2,000, probably the largest income ever 
received for surgical teaching in London. The mediaeval 
fashion of putting down awkward questioning was to invoke 
the phrase, " Ita scriptum est." The fashion of Savory 
was no less effective, for he spoke as a great authority, 
delivering final judgment on the problems of surgery. We 
are irresistibly reminded of Fustel de Coulanges, the French 
historian. " Do not applaud me," he said one day to an 
enthusiastic audience, " it is not I that speak to you but 
history that speaks by my mouth." He regarded his results 
as independent of himself, and criticism as something like 
blasphemy. The dissent of competent scholars never led him 
to modify his conviction not only that he had reached truth 
but that truth is easy to reach. 

Savory possessed the solid conviction that he had reached 
truth and that Lister had reached error. He attended the 
1879 meeting of the British Medical Association at Cork, 
and there pronounced a verdict against Listerism and its 
works, and he fondly believed that his verdict was the verdict 


of science. For fourteen years antiseptics had been in the 
possession of the medical profession if its members cared 
to employ them. With his dignified features and with 
his distinct voice, he pronounced the doom of the new ideas, 
and he pronounced it with all the confidence that sprang 
from his prominent position in London surgical circles. 
He set his points in so strong a light, and placed his con- 
tention on so solid a basis, that it seemed impossible that 
any answer could be found to his weighty manner and his 
no less weighty so it seemed to him conclusions. One 
felt, as his periods rolled forth, as if the voice of pure reason 
was speaking through his lips. Lister had attempted to 
prevent suppuration. Were his attempts a whit more suc- 
cessful than his own? Were they even as successful? He 
considered his annual average of about 6 cases of pyaemia, 
20 of erysipelas, and 26 of blood-poisoning following opera- 
tions represented as good a result as it was reasonably possible 
to expect.* He concluded by making the usual demand for 

The demand for statistics was easy to make and difficult 
to supply. Ridiculous people prefer the charge that figures 
can prove anything. They can do nothing of the kind in 
the hands of skilled statisticians who are seeking the truth. 
Figures can be made to prove anything in the hands of 
the partisan trying to establish a case. Savory was such a 
partisan. Lister undertook operations that Savory would 
not dream of undertaking. How could anyone compare 
Lister's operations with Savory's? What was required were 
statistics showing the average of cases in which suppura- 
tion occurred and the incidence of septic diseases among com- 
pound fractures and after operations when no previous wound 
was present. Unless such considerations could be taken 
into account, what use were the ordinary bald statistics of 
mortality after amputations? Such considerations were 
rightly present to the mind of Lister when he refused to 
embark on a contest where the odds would have been heavily 
weighted against him, a fact of which Sir William Savory 
was perfectly aware. 

From 1859 Pasteur had been investigating the origin and 
the reality of microbes and from 1865 Lister had been 

* Brit. Med. Jour., 1879, II, p. 212. 


putting these investigations to practical account. That is, 
in 1879 Savory had had twenty years to meditate over the 
labours of Pasteur and fourteen years to meditate over 
those of Lister. The amazing outcome of his meditations 
was the worthlessness of the antiseptic method ! " Savory's 
address," records Sir Rickman Godlee, " is still spoken of as 
the swan-song of the already dwindling race of pre-antiseptic 
surgeons. It expressed, however, the views of a consider- 
able proportion of the senior members of the staffs of the 
London and provincial hospitals at the time. Like a poultice, 
it warmed and comforted the soul of many a middle-aged 
man, who had begun to feel the discomforts of an under- 
mined faith; though it almost made some of the younger 
men, to whom time passes but slowly, despair of the 
future." * 

At an influential meeting in December 1879 f t^ e South 
London Division of the Metropolitan Counties Branch of 
the British Medical Association Lister dealt with Savory's 
Cork address. He met the statistical charge preferred 
against him, and he emphasised the new facts he had 
proved, saying, "If these matters have not attracted atten- 
tion, it cannot be because they are not worthy of it; I pre- 
sume it is because I have not the capacity to bring them 
before my professional brethren with sufficient force to im- 
press them upon them. It is not, I say, that these things are 
unimportant; but that they are not believed." f His perora- 
tion should have moved any surgeon, even Sir William 
Savory : " I feel I owe an apology to the meeting for having 
detained it so long, and I return you my sincere thanks 
for having listened to me so patiently. In such a gathering 
of medical men as I see before me I cannot avoid speaking 
warmly on a matter so near to my heart. I have been 
charged with enthusiasm; but I regard enthusiasm with 
reference to the avoidance of death, pain, and calamity to 
our fellow-creatures as a thing not at all to be ashamed of ; 
for I feel this to be a matter of which I may say in the 
words of Horace: 

Aeque pauperibus prodest, locupletibus aeque, 
Aeque neglectum pucris senibusque nocebit." t 

* Sir R. Godlee, Lord Lister, p. 323. t Ibid., p. 324. 


There were practically only two London surgeons who were 
moved to carry out what this speech eloquently and reason- 
ably suggested, and they were (afterwards Sir H. G.) Howse 
of Guy's and Marcus Beck of University College. Sir 
William Savory was in no wise moved: such men never 
are. Even at the Seventh International Medical Congress, 
held at London in 1881, he referred to his Cork address 
as still the epitome of his creed. Nor did he stand alone 
at this Congress, for Sampson Gamgee (1828 1886), an 
old fellow-student of Lister's, eloquently supported Savory. 

The debate of 1879, according to Sir Rickman Godlee, 
" also clearly showed how the often unconscious adoption 
of portions of Lister's practice interfered with the accept- 
ance of the doctrine as a whole. From the very first the 
antiseptic leaven began to work and led to a general diminu- 
tion of hospital diseases, which was forthwith attributed 
entirely to improvements in hospital hygiene. And yet, 
though this was the favourite view to hold and to express, 
one surgeon after another made attempts to obtain results 
equal to Lister's by simpler, or what were thought to be 
simpler, means. One satisfied his conscience by merely sub- 
stituting oakum for lint as a dressing, another by supplying 
weak solutions of iodine to his wounds. Callender of St. 
Bartholomew's had a system of his own which Lister 
described as ' a thoroughly antiseptic treatment/ and 
Jonathan Hutchinson of the London Hospital kept his dress- 
ings constantly soaked with spirit of wine and lead lotion. 
So did Croft and MacCormac, who followed Lister's practice 
implicitly, though not with complete success, in the fine new 
St. Thomas's Hospital the first up-to-date pavilion in 
London/' * It is enough to startle one to ascertain that 
" long after Lister came to London [in 1877] it was hard 
to find a dozen surgeons in the metropolis who were really 
competent to carry out the antiseptic treatment of a serious 
case/' f 

The Irish surgeons in Dublin and Belfast, with a few 
notable exceptions, ignored the innovation of Lister or 
laughed at it. Even while he was at Edinburgh, Lister 
received no support from his colleagues on the senior staff, 

* Sir R. Godlee, Lord Lister, p. 324. 
t Ibid., p. 326. 


though he secured adherents among the juniors. The sur- 
geons of the Royal Infirmary, Glasgow, pretended to give 
the new treatment a trial, but the clear evidence is that 
" the thing was a sham." * Nor is it true to hold that 
antiseptics were more readily accepted abroad. The prophet, 
save in Germany, Switzerland, and Scandinavia, had no 
more honour abroad than he possessed at home. 

In Germany Ernst von Bergmann of Berlin, Tillmans of 
Leipzig, Thiersch of Leipzig, and his intimate friend, 
Richard von Volkmann of Halle, Esmarch of Kiel, Konig 
of Gottingen, Trendelenburg of Bonn, Nussbaum of Munich, 
and Stromeyer of Hanover, adopted the antiseptic treatment. 
Von Langenbeck of Berlin preserved an attitude of 
neutrality. Thamayn of Halle, and a man in such an out- 
standing position as Billroth of Vienna, were frankly hostile. 
In 1880 Volkmann maintained at a clinical lecture that in 
medico-legal cases a surgeon could be called to account if 
he completely ignored antiseptics and lost a patient from 
pyaemia. " For this/' he writes, " I was reproached in the 
most violent manner both verbally and in print. A dis- 
tinguished medical- jurist (Gcrichtsarst) wrote a letter about 
me in which he called me a fanatic, and said that no medical 
jurist alive would reproach a practical surgeon who had 
acted faithfully according to the teaching of the text-books 
recommended at the University, because a practical surgeon 
could neither buy all the new books, nor ought he to allow 
his principles to be shaken by every new discovery/' f These 
sentiments stand for those of a class, and are therefore 
important. But it is easy to note the stages by which such 
principles harden into a scientific creed which nothing and 
no one can shake. 

A. W. Schultze, who was a convinced Listerian, points 
out that by 1875 the early enthusiasm in Germany had 
cooled because surgeons could not succeed in obtaining 
Lister's results, so that in some places actual opposition had 
set in. Schultze had visited our schools as well as those on 
the Continent, and he records that " in London Lister has 
few adherents. The principal surgeons [in 1875] have 
nothing to do with it, because they say they do not obtain 

* Sir R. Godlee, Lord Lister, p. 328. 
t Ibid., p. 340. 


from it any better results, and, speaking generally, the whole 
affair is too complicated for them. Precise objections you 
do not hear; the details of the practice are usually unknown 
to them/' 

Not less instructive was his round of the Continental 
schools. It was the same story in Holland, Belgium, South 
Germany, and Vienna. He never saw the treatment pro- 
perly carried out. It had been tried and given up. No 
rational objections were offered. For the most part surgeons 
were content to clap carbolic acid dressings on to wounds 
and suppurating surfaces, and looked upon Lister's publica- 
tions with distrust.* 

Billroth stood in the same rank as Bergmann. Great as 
a man, he proved equally great as a teacher, training such 
men destined to make their mark as Czerny, Mikulicz, and 
Wolfler. They diffused his ideas and his inspiration to 
Heidelberg, Breslau, Prague, and other Universities not 
merely in Austria and Germany, but in Universities so far 
away from Vienna as those of Belgium and Holland. The 
intimacy between Billroth and his pupils was as intimate 
as that between Paget and his. Billroth looked up to Liebig, 
and expressed the same disbelief as Liebig in micro-organisms 
as a cause of decomposition. Twice in October 1875 h e 
confided his opinion to Volkmann. " If you were not," he 
wrote on October 27, " so energetic a supporter of this 
method I should say the whole thing was a swindle; but 
still Lister's personality charms me." f Again he wrote to 
Volkmann : " I find the failures in Lister's treatment very 
instructive. I would on no account miss them. Absolute 
perfection has no interest for me. I am curious what will 
come after Lister; as a rule such things do not last more 
than five years." f To Neudorfer, an Austrian Army sur- 
geon who vehemently opposed Lister in November 1876^ 
Billroth wrote : " I share your opinion that Lister's theory 
still has a hole somewhere ; most investigators probably hold 
this opinion." f 

In the Franco-German War of 1870-1, in spite of the lead 
Pasteur had given to the French surgeons, the French did 
very little to extend Listerism to the wounded. The Germans 

* Sir R. Godlee, Lord Lister, p. 343. 

t Ibid., p. 349. Cf. Briefe of Theodor Billroth. 


did much more. Lister devised a specially simple method 
of his treatment readily applicable to the wounded.* Sur- 
geons like Berger and Perier, Terrier and, above all, Cham- 
pionniere bestirred themselves on behalf of the success of 
antiseptics, and the last published in 1876 the first complete 
account of antiseptic surgery. Vilmos Manninger thus 
accounts for the French failure to seize the new ideas: 
" France, the land of fashions, was occupied with the dis- 
cussion of so many other methods which their inventors 
advocated in preference to this new doctrine from abroad, 
that it advanced with tardy steps. One particular method, 
the ' pansement ouate of Alphonse Guerin/ was set up in 
opposition to Lister's treatment and held its own until 1880. 
It was because France in mere method of dressing was looked 
upon as the hinge upon which antiseptics turned, that the 
essence of Lister's teaching was long in obtaining a secure 
foothold." f O ne remedy held the field, and therefore no 
other remedy was worth trial. Championniere, a highly 
competent witness, agrees with Manninger that the French 
surgeons insisted in regarding Lister's system as a kind of 
dressing, not as a method of treatment. In 1909 Cham- 
pionniere told his class that in the war of 1870 his chief 
prevented him from bringing carbolic acid to the field hos- 
pital where patients were dying by the thousand of septic 
disease. His chief objected to such new-fangled ideas, and 
the carbolic acid was taken back to Paris unopened. Many 
bodies of Frenchmen, thanks to this prejudice, were left on 
the battlefield, and were also not taken back to Paris. " I 
only remind you/' Championniere remarked to his students, 
" as a matter of history, that for many years I was the 
subject of a sort of persecution on the part of those whose 
scientific repose I was violently upsetting, a persecution which 
only our contemporaries can remember/' J 

In Italy the adoption of Listerism was even slower than 
in France. Writing in 1878, Dr. Giuseppe Ruggi mentions 
seven Italian surgeons as the rare exceptions who had at 
least given it a trial. One of these was Bottini of Pavia, 

* Brit. Mcd. Jour., 1870, II, p. 243; Lister, Collected Papers, II, p. 161. 

t V. Manninger, Dcr Entwickclungsgang dcr Antiseptik und Aseptik, 
p. ioo. 

t Sir R. Godlee, Lord Lister, p. 355 ; Championniere, Brit. Med. Jour., 
1902, pp. 1819-21. 


and he speaks in 1878 of the acceptance of it in other 
countries, though in his own it " has been suffocated, up 
to that time, by the terrible and insidious weapon, apathy." * 
Ruggi testifies: " Italy is the most indifferent of all nations 
and seems as if she neither interested herself nor wished 
to interest herself in this method of treatment, which has 
been estimated so highly by the great surgical leaders of 
Germany." * 

If Europe was slow to adopt antiseptics, America and 
that is saying a good deal was slower. This is all the 
more remarkable when we bear in mind how often Americans 
visit Germany, and how lively the admiration for German 
opinion used to be and, for that matter, still is. In 
November 1877, Dr. Robert F. Weir, Surgeon to the New 
York and Roosevelt Hospitals, said : "It is only lately that, 
in America, attention has been given practically to the 
teachings of Lister in respect to the treatment of wounds. 
In fact, aside from an article by Schuppert in the New 
Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal, little or nothing has 
appeared in our medical journals relative to the results of 
the so-called antiseptic method. . . . The reason why 
American surgeons who justly have the reputation !of 
being eager to seize upon any improvement in their art 
have been tardy in testing the success of this mode of treat- 
ment, may, perhaps, be stated as follows: i. That the 
treatment, as enunciated by Mr. Lister, has been repeatedly 
changed in its details; 2. That it was too complicated, and 
demanded the supervision of the surgeon himself, or, in 
a hospital, of a carefully-trained staff of assistants; 3. That 
many who had tried it had been unsuccessful in the cases 
where the essay had been made. But the most weighty 
objection which was asserted or entertained, was the posi- 
tiveness of the enunciation of the germ-theory in explanation 
of the process of decomposition in the secretions of a 
wound.' 1 t 

In 1877 Lister left Edinburgh University for the chair 
of Clinical Surgery at King's College, London, and there 
is little doubt that he came to the metropolis as a man with 
a mission. This mission was to convert London to the 

* Sir R. Godlee, Lord Lister, p. 356. 
t Ibid., p. 357. 


antiseptic doctrine, where, after the lapse of twelve years 
since it was first announced, it had made but little progress. 
What the state of surgical opinion was like is evident from 
the fact that John Wood, a colleague of Lister's at King's 
College, never in his heart thought that there was much in 
antiseptics. In 1877 he openly declared that his new 
colleague " owed his fame to Germany," drawing the con- 
clusion that " the Germans were a dirty people," and that 
accordingly the new treatment " was not really necessary in 
England." As Wood was a good anatomist, and a better 
surgeon and a still better operator, his opinion possessed 

There was growth, there was development, with Listerism, 
and this is what we should naturally expect. Men stood on 
the shoulders of Lister, and gazed ahead. Aseptic surgeons 
like Ernst von Bergmann, known to some of us as one of 
the surgeons who attended Frederick the Noble and also 
known to fewer of us as one of the commanding scientific 
men of his age, held that organisms falling on a wound after 
an operation might be washed away by an unirritating fluid 
like salt-solution. Bergmann had been destined first for 
the ministry and then turned to philology. During the 
Franco-German War he had the foresight to divine the 
enormous extension of surgery to which antiseptics would 
give rise. Conscious of his great powers, this supremely 
able man abandoned pure science and turned to applied 
science in the shape of surgery. His pupils sought to get 
rid of chemical antiseptics even from their dressings, apply- 
ing only materials, such as cotton wool or gauze, which had 
been rendered sterile by super-heating. Did Lister ever 
understand how aseptics arose out of antiseptics? Did 
Virchow ever understand how the young men would pour 
the new wine of bacteriology into the old bottle of cellular 
pathology? Did Ehrlich ever understand how the new 
generation altered his conceptions of immunity? 

The outcome of the extension of aseptic surgery was 
antagonism to antiseptic surgery. Lister was honest enough 
to admit that in the light of newer knowledge a certain 
number of the beliefs upon which his system was founded 
had to be modified or even discarded. " But it is to be 
regretted/ 5 observes Sir Rickman Godlee, "that so much 


should have been made of this, and that in the feud that 
has arisen between the advocates of antiseptics and aseptics 
intemperate language should have been used. Such was 
never employed by von Bergmann or by Lister. There 
ought not to have been a contest at all ; for the two systems 
are not really opposed to one another. . . . The pity of it 
is that, for the moment, surgeons appear to feel bound to 
range themselves either on one side or the other." * In 
the nineties, and even in 1925, there is the spirit of attack 
that Lister had to endure so far back as the sixties. The 
idea underlying the modern practice is sound, but it is not 
new. " Nothing/' Sir Rickman Godlee judiciously points 
out, " is gained by strong language either on one side or 
the other. It is painful to hear the modern school spoken 
of as heretics, or the old school as effete. Lister himself 
seldom referred to the matter in public, and then it was in 
words not of anger but of grief." f 

The old opposition gradually died away, though oc- 
casionally men like Lawson Tait and Bantock, the gynae- 
cologists, joined the ranks of the aseptics in their abuse.'! 
Men came to acknowledge Lister's creative share in the 
movement for the prevention and the relief of human suffer- 
ing, which Sir William Osier termed man's redemption of 
man. In 1902 Lister received the Copley Medal of the 
Royal Society. At the anniversary dinner he returned 
thanks on behalf of the Medallists, and ended his speech 
by a reference which showed how the man of seventy-five 
felt his old wounds. " He had often thought that if he did 
deserve any credit, it was at the time when, perfectly con- 
vinced of the truth of the principle on which he acted, and 
persuaded also of the enormous importance to mankind of 
being able to carry out that principle in practice, he worked 
for years with exceedingly little encouragement from his 
professional brethren. There were, however, two great 
exceptions, his father-in-law and his students." 

* Sir R. Godlee, Lord Lister, p. 458. 

t Ibid., p. 466. 

j L. Tait, " The Antiseptic Theory tested by the Statistics of One Hun- 
dred Cases of successful Ovariotomy," Medico-Chirurg. Trans, 1880, 
LXIII, p. 161 ; Trans. Internat. Med. Congress, London, 1881, II, p. 228. 

Sir R. Godlee, Lord Lister, p. 576. 



HOSTILITY to new ideas is as marked a feature of the ancient 
world as it is of the modern. The search for natural law 
is expressed in Cato's reply to Scipio : " My wisdom consists 
in the fact that I follow nature, the best of guides, as I 
would a God and am loyal to her commands." Reuchlin 
could say : " I reverence St. Jerome as an angel, I respect 
De Lyra as a master, but I adore truth as a God." A Cato 
might follow nature as a God or a Reuchlin might adore 
truth as a God, but in classical times such a pursuit was 
dangerous. The Athenians banished Anaxagoras on the 
ground of impiety. They also banished Protagoras and 
burned his books publicly. When Carneades of the New 
Academy visited Rome on political business, and took occa- 
sion to deliver some of his sceptical discourses, the Romans 
promptly expelled him. Aristophanes attacked Socrates 
for impiety and materialism in teaching that the clouds were 
mechanical emanations and not divine persons. 

Socrates, in Plato's Phcedo, attacks the physiological 
studies of Anaxagoras on the same ground. He is ex- 
plaining to his disciples why he refused to take the hint 
conveyed to him by the Athenian Government that his 
escape would be connived at. " All my splendid hopes were 
dashed to the ground," Socrates holds, " my friend, for as 
I went on reading I found that the writer [i.e. Anaxagoras] 
made no use of Mind at all, and that he assigned no causes 
for the order of things. His causes were air, and ether, 
and water, and many other strange things. I thought that 
he was exactly like a man who should begin by saying that 
Socrates does all that he does by Mind, and who, when he 
tried to give a reason for each of my actions, should say, 
first, I am sitting here now, because my body is composed of 
20 35 


bones and muscles, and that the bones are hard and separated 
by joints, while the muscles can be tightened and loosened, 
and, together with the flesh, and the skin which holds them 
together, cover the bones ; and that therefore, when the bones 
are raised in their sockets, the relaxation and contraction of 
the muscles makes it possible for me now to bend my limbs, 
and that that is the cause of my sitting here with my legs 
bent. And in the same way he would go on to explain why 
I am talking to you : he would assign voice, and air, and 
hearing, and a thousand other things as causes; but he 
would quite forget to mention the real cause, which is that 
since the Athenians thought it right to condemn me, I have 
thought it right and just to sit here and to submit to what- 
ever sentence they may think fit to impose. For, by the dog 
of Egypt, I think that these muscles and bones would long 
ago have been in Megara or Boetia, prompted by their 
opinion of what is best, if I had not thought it better and 
more honourable to submit to whatever penalty the state 
inflicts, rather than escape by flight. But to call these 
things causes is absurd/'* So the age-long conflict of 
idealism with materialism proceeds in the fifth century B.C., 
as it proceeds in the nineteenth. 

As Cato endeavoured to follow nature, so St. Augustine 
pleaded for freedom for all in her pursuit. He accepted 
the fact of organic evolution as readily as a naturalist of 
our day, but a study of its factors was a matter of extreme 
uncertainty. " It very often happens/' he points out, " that 
there is some question as to the earth or the sky, or the 
other elements of this world . . . respecting which one who 
is not a Christian has knowledge derived from most certain 
reasoning or observation (by a scientific man), and it is 
very disgraceful and mischievous and of all things to be 
carefully avoided, that a Christian speaking of such matters 
as being according to the Christian Scriptures, should be 
heard by an unbeliever talking such nonsense that the un- 
believer perceiving him to be as wide from the mark as 
east from west, can hardly restrain himself from laughing/'f 
Such was the liberal view he laid down in the fifth century 
of our era, and such was the view on which he long con- 

* Plato, Phado, p. 179. 

t De Gcnesi ad Littcram, bk. I. sect. 39 (xix). 


tinned to act till the days of the Donatist controversy. 
Fourteen hundred years after the death of St. Augustine 
we still breathed the air of hostility to new forms of 
thought. From the days of Jenner to those of Lister, 
who passed away in 1912, we experience its all-pervading 

Portions of the careers of Jenner, Simpson, Lyell, Helm- 
holtz, Joule, Darwin, Pasteur, and Lister we have surveyed. 
These portions stop, for the most part, with the publication 
of the great conception with which the particular genius is 
associated. We stop our analysis of the career of Jenner 
with his publication of his book, An Inquiry into the Cause 
and Effects of the Variola? Vaccines 9 in 1798 and the criti- 
cism thereof; of the career of Simpson with his discovery 
of chloroform in 1847 an d the criticism thereof; of the 
career of Lyell with his publication of his Principles of 
Geology in 1830-3 and the criticism thereof; of the career 
of Hclmholtz to his discovery of the conservation of energy 
in 1847 an d the criticism thereof; of the career of Joule 
to his discovery of the mechanical equivalent of heat in 1843 
and the criticism thereof; of the career of Darwin to the 
publication of the Origin of Species in 1859 and the criticism 
thereof; of the career of Pasteur to his discovery of micro- 
organisms in 1859 and the criticism thereof; and of the 
career of Lister to his discovery of antiseptics in 1865 an( l 
the criticism thereof. Inevitably the task of analysing the 
criticism takes us, in some cases, beyond the date we have 
fixed for the end of our labours. There is no reason to 
think that the strictures levelled at any of these men ceased 
with the dates we have taken. If this book were not to 
grow to a portentous length, there must be limits set to 
it, and we have chosen limits that may well seem to some to 
be arbitrary. These limits are dictated by considerations 
of space, and by nothing else. 

Helmholtz himself tells us how a Professor of Physiology 
replied testily when invited by a physicist, during a discussion 
on the images of the eye, to accompany him home to see 
the experiment. With annoyance, he retorted that " a 
physiologist had nothing to do with experiments, though 
they might be well enough for physicists/' * Another Pro- 
* L. Koenigsberger, Hermann von Hclmholtz, p. 49. 


fessor of Pharmacology, and an academic reformer as well, 
taking the intellectual part himself, and leaving the lower 
experimental side to a colleague, gave up all hopes of him 
when he explained he regarded experiment as the true basis 
of science. Towards the end of 1850 Helmholtz discovered 
the ophthalmoscope. One distinguished surgical colleague 
told the discoverer that he should never use the instru- 
ment. For it would be too dangerous to admit naked 
light into the diseased eye ! Another was of opinion that the 
mirror might be of service to oculists with defective eyesight. 
For his part he had good eyes and wanted none of it. * 

No one thinks that hostility to Darwin ceased soon after 
1859. It certainly had not ceased in 1871 when he pub- 
lished the Descent of Man. St. Augustine rejected the 
doctrine of special creation, and the Church rejected it till 
the days of John Milton, whose Paradise Lost was the cause 
of its reception. Huxley fondly believed that Moses wrote 
" Trespassers will be prosecuted " across the path of the 
naturalist. He was wrong. It was John Milton who 
affixed this notice. Will the pleasure his poems have given 
atone for the pain of such a conception as special creation? 
For hundreds of years the Church entertained no such idea, 
and men of the stature of St. Augustine emphatically repu- 
diated it. The genius of one man was enough to plant it 
in the heart of Europe. 

In passing, we may note that simultaneous discoveries 
such as that of Wallace and Darwin are by no 
means so uncommon as some suppose. Bichat and 
Lamarck in France, and Treviranusf made simultaneously 
three independent attempts to treat the phenomena of 
organic life as a whole and in connection. Karl Friedrich 
Gauss, whose discoveries were forestalled as often as New- 
ton's, and Legendre simultaneously developed the so-called 
method of least squares. Gauss followed out the theories of 
Laplace and Legendre at the same time as George Green, 
whose fundamental Essay on the Application of Mathematical 
Analysis to the Theories of Electricity and Magnetism, pub- 
lished in 1828, was so long ignored. H. C. Schumacher and 
Gauss also simultaneously arrived at the same conclusions on 

* L. Koenigsberger, Hermann von Helmholtz, p. 40. 

t E. Haeckel, NatUrliche Schopfungs Geschichtc, Band I, Vorlesung 4. 


Abel's Memoir on Elliptic Functions* Saccheri performed 
at the close of the seventeenth century, the task of developing 
a logically consistent geometry which accepted the other 
Euclidean axioms, though denying the parallel axiom. 
Gauss, with his penetrating genius, pondered on this question, 
doubting the absolute necessity of the Euclidean geometry. 
Once again he was anticipated, for Johann Boylai (1802 
1860), a Hungarian, and Lobatschewski, a Russian, also 
doubted the absolute necessity of traditional geometry. It 
was quite in keeping with the extraordinary genius of 
Gauss, which so resembled that of Henry Cavendish, that 
in the cases of Schumacher and Boylai and Lobatschewski, 
he should simply have experienced relief that there was 
now no necessity for him to publish his own results, results 
that affected the very foundations of the whole of geometry! 
There is a right spirit of detachment, but surely the limits 
of it are reached in the cases of Gauss and Cavendish. 
Think only of some of the consequences of the ideas of 
Boylai and Lobatschewski. In the hands of Riemann they 
assumed new possibilities when he contemplated the effect 
of denying the infinity of the straight line. For it meant 
the amazing extension of geometry in our days the exten- 
sion to space of four, five, or any number of dimensions. 
Some trace the Einstein principle of relativity back to 
Descartes. There can be no manner of doubt that it goes 
back in its pedigree to the simultaneous work of a Russian 
and a Hungarian, which had all been done by Gauss. 

The tale of simultaneous discovery can readily be length- 
ened. In fact, if we had at our disposal the n dimensions 
in space on paper, at least we should require it if we were 
to give all the examples. Young and Laplace independently 
developed the theory of capillary action. Avogadro and 
Ampere practically suggested at the same time that equal 
volumes of different gases contain an equal number of 
smallest independent particles of matter, a far-reaching hypo- 
thesis. Sir Norman Lockyer and the French astronomer, 

* K. F. Gauss, Wcrkc, III, p. 395- We may here say that all 
Gauss's letters are worth reading, and fortunately there are many of 
them. There are : " Brief wechsel zwischen C. F. Gauss und H. C. 
Schumacher " ; " Brief wechsel zwischen Gauss und Bessel " ; " Brief- 
wechsel zwischen C F. Gauss and W. Boylai"; and "Briefe zwischen 
Humboldt und Gauss." 


Janssen, announced together the existence of three bright 
lines in the solar spectrum. Jacobi and Abel developed, in- 
dependently of Gauss, what Gauss called the " new tran- 
scendent f unctions. " Jacobi and Abel, following out the in- 
vestigations of Legendre, came to Gaussian conceptions 
entertained a generation before them. Hermann Grassmann 
(1809 1877) quite independently worked at similar 
extensions of our arithmetical and geometrical con- 
ceptions, leading him on to quaternions as presenting a 
special form of the extended algebra and geometry elaborated 
from different beginnings. Mobius and Plucker at the same 
time threw their strength into purely geometrical researches 
as contrasted with the dominant French school of analysis. 
Independently and quite unknown to Michael Faraday, or 
to each other, Sir William Rowan Hamilton, the discoverer 
of quaternions, at Dublin and Grassmann at Zurich were 
elaborating, between 1835 an d J 845, the geometrical con- 
ceptions and vocabulary required in the representation of 
" directed " quantities. To-day we know these quantities 
as vector analysis, and we also know what a large share 
vector analysis takes in the scientific labours of our time. 
As Helmholtz at Potsdam and Joule in Manchester were 
working at different sides of the conservation of energy, 
so were Clausius at Zurich and Kelvin at Glasgow working 
at the same side of this problem simultaneously. Clausius 
and Kelvin simultaneously sought to reconcile Sadi Carnot's 
conceptions with Joule's experiments. Kelvin, character- 
istically enough, developed his views in a generalised attitude, 
and Clausius, just as characteristically, developed his from 
a particularised angle and gave his treatment a more purely 
mathematical turn. Kelvin, Clausius, and Macquorn Ran- 
kine at the same time applied the Carnot doctrine that heat 
and work are convertible to the discovery of new relations 
among the properties of bodies. In 1869, Mendeleef, the 
Russian, and Lothar Meyer, the German, published almost 
together their classification of the periodic arrangements of 
the elements, according to their atomic weights. In 1900, De 
Vries from Holland, Correns from Germany, and Tchermak 
from Austria simultaneously rediscovered and repeated 
Mendel's experiments recorded in 1865. 

People say that ideas are in the air. They are nothing of 


the kind. They are in the minds of men and women who have 
the genius to perceive them. That they should perceive them 
simultaneously every now and then is no matter of surprise. 
Rather, the matter of surprise is that such simultaneous 
discoveries should not occur more frequently than they do. 
We can scarcely avoid raising the question, Why should 
not two men of genius in science collaborate? Supposing 
Darwin and Wallace had collaborated? Supposing Adams 
and Leverrier had collaborated ? It does not seem to have 
occurred to the co-discoverers of the evolution principle that 
they should have joined forces, and we almost doubt the 
possibility. A couple of cases may be given. Liebig 
(1802 1875) anc l Wohler (1800 1882) co-operated suc- 
cessfully, in spite of the fact that they pursued different 
lines of thought and were trained in different schools. Of 
course many scientific memoirs bear two names, but the 
status of the joint authors is generally known to be unequal. 
One of them is either paying a kindly compliment to the 
younger worker, or (alas! for poor human nature) he is 
assuming credit for work done in his laboratory with a 
minimum of exertion to himself. One of the rare exceptions 
is the association of G. D. Liveing, so long the Grand Old 
Man of Cambridge University, and Sir James Dewar, and 
this association undoubtedly carried no suggestion of in- 
equality. Real scientific partnership is much rarer than 
successful literary collaboration. 

No scientist has carried out a long series of experiments, 
leading him to formulate conclusions, without wishing that 
he had anyone with whom he could discuss their worth. 
Pasteur ached for Chappuis to take up science in order to 
afford him that scientific partnership for which he longed. 
Chappuis, however, turned aside to philosophy, and Pasteur 
was obliged to tread his solitary path. Long before him, 
Milton had remarked, " I have chosen the lonely way." It 
was as lonely for Pasteur as it had been for Newton, 
journeying in strange seas of thought unaccompanied. The 
motto prefixed to Pasteur's " Etudes sur la Biere " is : " The 
greatest distortion of the intellect is to believe things because 
one wishes them to exist." At one of the meetings of the 
Academic Frangaise, while the interminable Dictionary was 
being discussed on January 29, 1885, ^ flashed across his 


mind, bursting for a Chappuis in whom to confide : " I do 
not know how to hide my ideas from those who work with 
me; still, I wish I could have kept those I am going to 
express a little longer to myself. The experiments have 
already begun which will decide them. 

" It concerns rabies, but the results might be general. 

" I am inclined to think that the virus which is considered 
rabic may be accompanied by a substance which, by im- 
pregnating the nervous system, would make it unsuitable for 
the culture of the microbe. Thence vaccinal immunity. If 
that be so, the theory might be a general one : it would be 
a stupendous discovery. 

" I have just met Chamberland in the Rue Gay-Lussac, 
and explained to him this view and my experiments. He was 
much struck, and asked my permission to make at once on 
anthrax the experiment I am about to make on rabies as 
soon as the dog and the culture rabbits are dead. Roux, 
the day before yesterday, was equally struck/' * 

Working inductively, Jenner had discovered his vaccina- 
tion. Working scientifically, Pasteur was, to the permanent 
benefit of mankind, to develop his remedy. The day came 
when the remedy was to be tested on Joseph Meister, the 
little Alsatian boy, who had been bitten by a mad dog at 
Meissengott near Schlestadt. M. Vallery-Radot reveals 
how tenderly and how anxiously Pasteur watched the 
cure of the boy, for to him as to Lister a patient was never 
an item in a ward. He was " this poor lad " who has the 
misfortune to be inoculated with hydrophobia. Meister was 
cured. Did the doctors believe in the cure? Not at all. At 
the time when Dr. Grancher first accepted the responsibility 
of conducting inoculations, one of Pasteur's most determined 
opponents, M. Peter, reiterated his requests to the Academy 
of Sciences almost weekly, that they should order the 
laboratory in the Rue d'Ulm to be closed. Passionately 
Peter declared that, instead of curing rabies, they were in 
reality communicating the disease. One morning Dr. 
Grancher met Pasteur listening to a physician who was 
putting forth his objections to the doctrine of microbes in 
general and of the treatment of hydrophobia in particular. 
Wearied out with the objections at last, Pasteur replied: 
* R. Vallery-Radot, Life of Pasteur, p. 413. 


" Sir, your language is not very intelligible to me. I am 
not a physician and do not desire to be one. Never speak 
to me of your dogma of morbid spontaneity. I am a 
chemist; I carry out experiments and I try to understand 
what they teach me." * Opponents discussed in April 1886 
the three deaths of Russians who came at an advanced stage 
of the disease. The failures they could see : the successes, 
such as Meister, they were unable constitutionally to see. 

In 1886 Pasteur was a man of forty- four, one of the 
most outstanding scientists in the length and breadth of 
France, yet even he was subject to the hostility of men like 
Peter. When in August 1886 the discoverer read some 
articles of fierce criticism, he exclaimed: "How difficult 
it is to obtain the triumph of truth! Opposition is a useful 
stimulant, but bad faith is such a pitiable thing. How is it 
that they are not struck with the results as shown by 
statistics? From 1880 to 1885 sixty persons are stated to 
have died of hydrophobia in the Paris hospitals ; well, since 
November i, 1885, when the prophylactic method was 
started in my laboratory, only three deaths have occurred in 
those hospitals, two of which were cases which had not been 
treated. It is evident that very few people who had been 
bitten did not come to be treated. In France, out of that 
unknown but very restricted number, seventeen cases of 
death have been noted, whilst out of the 1,726 French and 
Algerians who came to the laboratory only ten died after 
the treatment/' f 

There was open hostility on the part of medical men, 
and there was concealed or anonymous hostility on the part 
of some members of the public. The discoverer suffered 
from that pestilential person, the writer of the anonymous 
letter. Envy, malice, and hatred employed their trumpet 
tones against him. In 1886, with a career of scientific bril- 
liance behind him, newspaper after newspaper wrote insulting 
and scurrilous articles. Colleagues, knowing his sensitive 
nature, endeavoured to console him. " I did not know I had 
so many enemies," he mournfully thought. " You know," 
said M. Grancher, " that M. Pasteur is an innovator, and 
that his creative imagination, kept in check by rigorous ob- 

* R. Vallery-Radot, Life of Pasteur, p. 425. 
t Jbid. t p. 433- 


servation of facts, has overturned many errors and built 
up in their place an entirely new science. His discoveries 
on ferments, on the generation of the infinitesimally small, 
on microbes, the cause of contagious diseases, and on the 
vaccination of those diseases, have been for biological 
chemistry, for the veterinary art and for medicine, not a 
regular process, but a complete revolution. Now, revolu- 
tions, even those imposed by a scientific demonstration, ever 
leave behind them vanquished ones who do not easily forgive. 
M. Pasteur has therefore many adversaries in the world, 
without counting those Athenian French who do not like to 
see one man always right or always fortunate." * The 
Greek did not admire Alcibiades because he was invariably 
called Alcibiades the Just, and apparently this Greek owned 
successors in the France of the eighties. In spite of M. 
Grancher, we entertain a shrewd suspicion that the obstacles 
Pasteur encountered in the medical world can be traced 
back to the motto of his Etudes sur la Biere. For medical 
man after medical man believed things because they wished 
them to exist, or perhaps we may say medical man after 
medical man believed things because they had existed while 
they were young men, and therefore they were resolved that 
they should go on persisting in their existence. The fact 
that Pasteur or, for the matter of that, any other scientific 
man had taken them to a stage beyond what they had 
known in their college days was absolutely immaterial. 
Their motto was, " The thing that hath been is that which 
shall be, and there is no new thing under the sun." At 
least, if there was a brand new thing under the sun, ostrich- 
like they were determined to hide their heads in the sands 
and not see it. Nelson was not deliberately more blind 
at Copenhagen than these medical men were resolute in 
being. They applied the telescope to their blind eye. Of 
course they saw nothing in Pasteurian research. But they 
might have been asked another question, How could they 
with eyes wilfully shut see anything in it? They might 
also have been asked a second question, How are they 
going to account for his results? Of course they could say 
what stupid folk are always saying when any one of them 
was buttonholed, Results? My dear sir, there really are 
* R. Vallery-Radot, Life of Pasteur, p. 441. 


no results. You can invariably juggle with figures. Be- 
sides, have you heard of the deaths? With a shake of the 
professional head, it could be implied that if discretion per- 
mitted it could be whispered perhaps the doctor could 
effectively remark, THREE deaths! Think of that. If I 
only could tell you all and then he could break off, imply- 
ing far more deaths than three. Pasteur the discoverer ! But 
we all know the rigorous implacability of his reasoning! 
We all know the absolute form he gives to his thought! 
In theory, he MAY be right. True, he has made lucky 
guesses before. But this time his guess has been unlucky! 
There are those deaths! Those he cannot explain away! 
So the wiseacres shook their heads, so they shrugged their 
shoulders. Time proved them wrong. That time proved 
them wrong does not prevent the successors of those wise- 
acres shaking their heads and shrugging their shoulders, 
even in the year of grace 1925, when a new idea is placed 
before them. 

It is a law of mechanics that to every action there is an 
equal and opposite reaction. The mightier the wave, the 
greater is the stretch of sand ultimately left exposed. The 
example of Francis of Assisi raises his followers to a 
pinnacle beyond the reach of mankind; but the work of the 
satirist and the record of the annalist agree in their evidence 
that the friars of the sixteenth century were as much below 
the level of good men as their predecessors were above it. 
Through the mouth of Pericles, Thucydides praises the 
Athenians for the exact qualities which, in the eyes of 
Demosthenes, they utterly lack. The energy of the Athen- 
ians of one century was as much above the normal level as 
that of their descendants of the next century was below it. 
There are many swings of the pendulum backwards and 
forwards before the repose of the mean is reached. In 
the world of science there is the inevitable reaction against 
a man who has stood on a height. The discovery of any 
great truth is always followed by an over-valuation, from 
which there is certain to be a reaction. There is such a 
reaction, for example, against the theory of natural selection 
which will inevitably come into its own. All the criticism, 
however, we have recorded has not been of this class, which 
is, after all, an incident of human nature, though it ought 


not to be so. The criticism we have recorded has generally 
been of the type which insists and persists that the new view 
is not true, it cannot be true, and anyhow, we should not 
dream of accepting it. It is of the class of the Scots who 
announced, " I am open to conviction, but I am a dour 
deevil to convince. " The creed of the scientist is that he 
stands open to every form of truth that the laboratory 
could bring him. No creed could be more correct. Creed 
and practice in science, however, are by no means precisely 
the same thing. Not a few scientists resembled the Scots. 
They were open to conviction, but the examples of Jenner 
and Simpson, Lyell and Helmholtz, Joule and Darwin, Pas- 
teur and Lister proved that the)* were " dour deevils " to 
convince, and many of them permanently remained uncon- 
vinced. Take an instance. Sir Arthur Shipley informs us 
that Alfred Newton (1829 1907) was in some respects 
old-fashioned and with fixed ideas, he was like Mr. Chris- 
parkle's mother, " always open to discussion, but he invari- 
ably looked, as the China shepherdess looked, as though he 
would like to see the discussion that would change his mind/' 
Long before there was a Christian Church the Greeks em- 
ployed their autos da fe. Anaxagoras and Protagoras, Car- 
neades and Socrates knew by practical experience what they 
meant in real life. To-day science can proclaim if she 
chooses that she employs no autos da fe. In fact, she 
can proudly claim that she has never done so. We, however, 
are not so sure. Is there any punishment equal to that 
which, in the name of Science and with the august authority 
of Science, has been inflicted upon Jenner and Simpson, 
Lyell and Helmholtz, Joule and Darwin, Pasteur and Lister, 
in some cases by ignoring their epoch-making ideas, and in 
other cases by fighting them to the death? Did any set of 
men so torture the body as scientists tortured the minds 
of these discoverers by bitterly criticising them ? One would 
have thought that the thanks of the whole scientific world 
would at once have been their rightful due. In not a single 
case was this so. We may be told that such things do not 
happen nowadays. Of this we are by no means sure. Our 
scientific autos da fe take a new form. If your conceptions 
are revolutionary, you are not elected, say, quite so soon 
a Fellow of the Royal Society. You are not elected to 


committees to which other men, with not a tithe of your 
abilities, are elected. If you are a young lecturer with a 
big idea in your mind, you had better be careful. For if 
your Professor does not report well of you, you may remain 
an assistant Professor or a mere lecturer all your days. 
Men able to practise concealment of views like Cavendish 
and Gauss though with none of their genius are men 
likely to beat you in the days when the selection committee 
chooses the new Professor. Nor are these dangers by any 
means imaginary. What hope is there for a man whose 
papers are systematically declined by the Royal Society of 
England, or the Royal Society of Edinburgh, or the Royal 
Irish Academy of Ireland? The same question exactly 
applies to such foreign bodies as the Academic Frangaise des 
Sciences or the Preussische Akademie d. Wissenschaften. 
The old motto for the aspiring scientist can be revised, for 
it is, " Abandon all hope ye who do not enter here." 

The want of recognition, we do not doubt, has brought 
the work of many a promising man to an end. We might 
as well say that the harm of the Index Expurgatorius may 
be measured entirely by the books on its list. Of course, 
this is utterly out of the question. We measure the harm 
done by the Index Expurgatorius not merely by the books 
put on it, but also by those never written because their 
authors were afraid. Authors, even scientific ones, are not 
all brave men physically. Many a man is not afraid for his 
own sake. But he is afraid for the sake of truth and 
for he is a human being for the sake of the girl to whom 
he is engaged. Sir Isaac Newton was not the only man in 
the seventeenth century who shrank from publishing his 
results because he feared the hostility his ideas might excite. 
Henry Cavendish was not the only man in the eighteenth 
century who shrank from publishing his results because he 
preferred to attack new questions. Nor was Karl 
Friedrich Gauss * the only man in the nineteenth century 
who shrank from publishing his results because he feared 
the hostility his ideas might excite. In Shakespeare's Henry 
IV there is a description that applies : " I am not yet of 
Percy's mind, the Hotspur of the north; he that kills some 

* On Gauss, cf. Hanselmann, K. F. Gauss] W. von Sartorius, Gauss 
zum Gedachtniss] and E. Sobering, C. F. Gauss. 


six or seven dozen of Scots at a breakfast, washes his 
hands, and says to his wife, 'Fie upon this quiet life! I 
want work! ' " There is a class of scientist who aches for 
strife. Thomas Henry Huxley cared for truth. No one 
who has read the fine biography of him his son, Mr. Leonard 
Huxley, has written can doubt that for a single moment. 
Did he never care for controversy for controversy's sake? 
He spawned hypotheses, though he never, so far as we know, 
originated a single discovery save the one he made as 
the undergraduate of nineteen. He went astray over his 
Bathybius hypothesis, and he went astray over the phylo- 
geny of the horse. Now before both these mistakes were 
discovered, would it, we imagine, have gone well with a 
young man who pointed out the errors in either? A pure 
lover of truth, like that supreme genius, Faraday, would 
probably have admitted the error. We are not altogether 
so sure in the case of a man who loved controversy as 
Huxley did, for it was the very breath of his nostrils. 
Can you always chase truth with a logical forceps ? 

Nothing came amiss to the destructive powers of Hux- 
ley. It might be the views of General Booth on social 
reform or it might be the folks who talk about the natural 
rights of man. He lashed them all, and right vigorously 
he laid on the lash. To use present-day phraseology, his 
controversial complexes suffered no repression. No doubt 
the subconscious is as much overworked as x, y, and z in 
algebra, and we hesitate to employ this term. Still, sub- 
consciously this attitude of Huxley towards controversy, 
psychologically speaking, affected his attitude towards the 
pursuit of truth. Instead of constructive work, his is 
destructive work, and it is seldom possible for the same brain 
to undertake these two types of creative energy. Even the 
elan vital of Bergson is not sufficient for such a task. Hux- 
ley's coinage of the word Agnosticism has always seemed 
to us to be a parable of the whole man in science as well 
as in political economy and in political philosophy. Glad- 
stone wrote foolish articles on matters with which he was 
not conversant, like his account of Creation as revealed 
in Genesis and the order of evolution as shown by modern 
biology. Huxley confided in Mr. H. F. Osborn : " When 
this article reached me, I read it through and it made me so 


angry that I believe it must have acted on my liver. At 
all events, when I finished my reply to Gladstone I felt better 
than I had for months past."* The question, however, is, 
How did some young men of science feel as they read such 
slashing attacks? Was truth to be clutched by the hair in 
the pages of the Nineteenth Century as a constable might 
capture a ferocious prisoner? 

Because Huxley is one of the most typical of the Victorian 
scientists we spend some more space on him. On September 
29, 1890, he informs Sir J. D. Hooker: "I wish quietude 
of mind were possible to me. But without something to 
do that amuses me and does not involve too much labour, I 
become quite unendurable to myself and to everybody else. 

" Providence has, I believe, specially devolved on Glad- 
stone, Gore, and Co. the function of keeping ' home 'appy ' 
for me. 

" I really can't give up tormenting ces droles" f 

Did it ever occur to him that just as there is a scientific 
atmosphere so there is a theological one, to be lived and not 
merely to be crammed up in Suarez or in any other authority ? 
We verily think that such an idea never crossed the mind of 
Huxley. As well might one learn anatomy from book-work 
only ! 

On January 10, 1891, he confides in Sir Michael Foster: 
"I knew the saints were not bad hands at lying before; 
but these Booth people beat Banagher. 

" Then there is awaits skinning, and I believe the 

G.O.M. is to be on me! Oh, for a quiet life." J 

We return to Shakespeare's Henry IV, for the parallelism 
is marked. " I am not yet of Percy's mind, the Hotspur 
of the north; he that kills some six or seven dozen of Scots 
at a breakfast, washes his hands, and says to his wife, 
'Fie 'Upon this quiet life! I want work! ' '" Huxley never 
secured the deeply reflective mind, simply because he did not 
care for it. He could not say, with Alfred de Vigny, " J'ai 
porte dans une vie toute active, une nature toute contem- 
plative/' The brooding spirit of truth never dwelt among 

* Impressions of Great Naturalists, p. 93. 

t L. Huxley, Life and Letters of T. H. Huxley, II, p. 269. 

t Ibid. f II, p. 275. I italicise the words. 

I italicise these words. 


his manifold activities, spreading peace and the atmosphere 
of fruitful ideas over everything. Gladstone had written 
articles which laid them open to his facile pen. Very well, 
then. Pen must be put to paper, and the articles demolished 
as a contractor demolishes an empty house. Lord Randolph 
Churchill had set the fashion. Did it strike the mind of 
Huxley that in attacking Gladstone, he, in spite of Mr. Win- 
ston Churchill's brilliant biography of his father, lowered 
himself to the rank of Lord Randolph Churchill? 

The case of Sir Richard Owen is far more serious, for he 
had won for himself a serious scientific position. We read 
in 1851 that Huxley writes: "It is astonishing with what 
an intense feeling of hatred Owen is regarded by the 
majority of his contemporaries, with Mantell as arch-hater. 
The truth is, he is the superior of most, and does not conceal 
that he knows it, and it must be confessed that he does 
some very ill-natured tricks now and then. A striking 
specimen of one is to be found in his article on Lyell in the 
last Quarterly, where he pillories poor Quekett a most in- 
offensive man and his own immediate subordinate in a 
manner not more remarkable for its severity than for its 
bad taste. That review has done him much harm in the 
estimation of thinking men and, curiously enough, since 
it was written, reptiles have been found in the old red sand- 
stone, and insectivorous insects in the Trias ! Owen is an 
able man, but to my mind not so great as he thinks himself. 
He can only work in the concrete from bone to bone, in 
abstract reasoning he becomes lost witness Parthenogenesis, 
which he told me he considered one of the best things he had 
done." * Huxley was then but twenty-six when he pro- 
nounced this cocksure judgment. Then and always his 
was an esprit positif. 

He tells his sister Lizzie, on March 27, 1858, that " I have 
a high standard of excellence and am no respecter of 
persons, and I am afraid I show the latter peculiarity rather 
too much. An internecine feud rages between Owen and 
myself (more's the pity) partly on this account, partly from 
other causes." | 

In Punch for May 15, 1862, under a picture of a gorilla, 

* L. Huxley, Life and Letters of T. H. Huxley, I, p. 93. 
t Ibid., I, p. 158. 


bearing the sign, " Am I a Man and a Brother? ", appeared a 
squib, and we give the concluding verses : 

Next HUXLEY replies 

That OWEN he lies 
And garbles his Latin quotation; 

That his facts are not new, 

His mistakes not a few, 
Detrimental to his reputation. 

" To twice slay the slain " 

By dint of the Brain 
(Thus HUXLEY concludes his review), 

Is but labour in vain, 

Unproductive of gain, 
And so I shall bid you " Adieu." 

Did Huxley bid Owen adieu? Of course he did nothing 
of the kind. On May, 13, 1871, he writes to John Tyndall: 
" You know Mrs. Carlyle said that Owen's sweetness re- 
minded her of sugar of lead. Granville's was that plus 
butter of antimony ! " * 

When Sir Richard Owen died, his son had the temerity 
to ask Huxley to write an appreciation of the labours of his 
father. Putting aside his private feelings, Huxley, with 
a magnanimity that does him credit, did the task in 1894 
in a way that proves the standing of Owen to all who 
care for what a big man undoubtedly did. Huxley pro- 
nounced, after the death of Owen, that " Owen's time . . . 
might have been fully occupied by the famous Memoir on 
the Pearly Nautilus, which was published in 1832 and placed 
its author, at a bound, in the front rank of anatomical 
monographers. . . . During more than half a century, 
Owen's industry remained unabated; and whether we con- 
sider the quantity, or the quality, of the work done, or the 
wide range of his labours, I doubt, if, in the long annals 
of anatomy, more is to be placed to the credit of any single 
worker. ... It is a splendid record; enough, and more 
than enough, to justify the high place in the scientific world 
which Owen so long occupied. If I mistake not, the his- 
torian of comparative anatomy and of palaeontology will 
always assign to Owen a place next to, and hardly lower 
than, that of Cuvier, who was practically the creator of those 
sciences in their modern shape; and whose works must 
* L. Huxley, Life and Letters of T. H. Huxley, II, p. 167. 


always remain models of excellence in their kind. It was 
not uncommon to hear our countrymen called " the British 
Cuvier," and so far, in my judgment, the collocation was 
justified, high as the praise implies. 

" But when we consider Owen's contributions to ' philo- 
sophic anatomy/ I think the epithet ceases to be appropriate. 
For there can be no question that he was deeply influenced 
by, and inclined towards, those speculations of Oken and 
Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, of which Cuvier was the declared an- 
tagonist and often the bitter critic. . . . When Owen passes 
from matters of anatomical fact and their immediate inter- 
pretation to morphological speculation, it is not surprising 
that he also passes from the camp of Cuvier into that :of 
his adversaries. . . .* 

" But it will cease to be so remarkable to those who reflect 
that the ablest of us is a child of his time, profiting by one 
set of influences, limited by another. It was Owen's limita- 
tion that he occupied himself with speculations about 
the ' Archetype ' some time before the work of 
the embryologists began to be appreciated in this country. 
It had not yet come to be understood that, after the publi- 
cation of the investigations of Rathke, Reichert, Remak, 
Vogt, and others, the venue of the great cause of the mor- 
phology of the skeleton was removed from the court of 
comparative anatomy to that of embryology. " f 

Many of the details of this J long and this generous eulogy 
we have left out, though the student of the growth of science 
will care to read the whole of it. Readers of the first 
volume of Mr. Leonard Huxley's biography of his father 
cannot help noticing the bitterness of the feeling existing 
between Huxley and Owen, and this is evident in the 
biography Mr. Huxley has also written of Sir J. D. Hooker, 
a couple of extremely important pieces of work. They can 
hardly help thinking that if some of this generosity of 
feeling had been manifested by T. H. Huxley towards Sir 
Richard Owen during the lifetime of the great anatomist, 
what a happier place the world of science would have been ! 
Psychology teaches us that if complexes are repressed, they 

* R. Owen, The Life of Professor Owen, II, p. 306. 
t Ibid., II, p. 309. 

J It occupies pp. 273 to 332 in vol. II of R. Owen, The Life of Pro- 
fessor Owen. 


nevertheless make their influence felt. Huxley, like all the 
rest of us, was under the sway of these complexes, and 
they undoubtedly altered his attitude to Owen. Lately a 
friend of mine was asked her opinion of a lady who possessed 
a pair of beautiful eyes and a sharp tongue. Reflectively 

she answered, " Mrs. . Oh, she has the most beautiful 

pair of eyes I have ever seen in a woman's head." There 
was a pause in the conversation, and then came another 
question, " But what about her tongue? " " I leave that to 
speak for itself/' Huxley perceived the beauty of the 
anatomy and the palaeontology of Owen, and it is a thousand 
pities that he allowed his private grudges to sharpen his 
tongue on one who, in spite of mistakes, is the Cuvier of 

Of all the melancholy reading we know, there is nothing 
quite so melancholy in the annals of the nineteenth century 
as the scientific controversies that disfigure it. Men who 
ought to have co-operated together are to be found, privately 
and publicly, slaying one another in reputation. Goethe, who 
was inter alia a scientist, wrote : 

Es bildet ein Talent sich in der Stille, 

Sich ein Charakter in dem Strom der Welt. 

Ein Talent certainly comes to its own in der Stille, but 
does it come to its own in der Streit? There is that atti- 
tude of waiting, that passiveness, Wordsworth attractively 
sets forth as part of our position to the world of nature : 

Nor less I deem that there are powers 
Which of themselves our minds impress; 

That we can feed this mind of ours 
In a wise passiveness. 

Think you mid all this mighty sum 

Of things for ever speaking, 
That nothing of itself will come, 

But we must still be seeking? 

Disagreement in the mathematical sciences might seem at 
first sight incredible. Yet who does not know the con- 
troversies connected with the theory of parallel lines, the 
meaning of infinitesimals, the correct measurement of force, 
the conservation of energy, and the like? There are 
fashions in the methods employed in the solution of equa- 


tions, and men of one set of fashions in this matter denounce 
men of another set of fashions. Despite the labours of 
Gauss and Sir William Hamilton, P. G. Tait could never 
convince Lord Kelvin that the method of quaternions was 
a fruitful one. Tait himself used this method, but Lord 
Kelvin would never countenance it. Tait in turn disputed the 
discovery and the enunciation of the second law of thermo- 
dynamics with Clausius. Him and Zeuner fought hotly 
as to the cause of the serious discrepancy between the theor- 
etical and practical figures referring to the work in the 
steam-cylinder. This was known as the " Water or Iron " 
Controversy.* The three brothers Weber,f freeing them- 
selves from the metaphysical assumptions of their day, occu- 
pied themselves with the method of exact measurement 
applied to physical, physiological, and mental processes. A 
subject, however, so remote from human passions as Wil- 
helm Weber's law of electro-dynamics or Ernst Heinrich 
Weber's law of psycho-physics aroused long controversies. 
We travel on to another grave question, What were the 
relations between mathematical and experimental physics? 
During the first half of the nineteenth century men like 
Gustav Magnus (1802 1870) and Hermann von Helm- 
holtz perceived a danger existing. Just as " Natur-philo- 
sophie " had enticed many from nature and observation, so 
mathematical theories, involving prolonged calculations, 
they feared, might similarly entice them from nature and 

Helmholtz used to lay stress on the transcendent genius 
of Thomas Young (1773 1829) and competent thinkers of 
our time cordially agree in this opinion. The average 
scientist thought, however, that a man who was physician, 
physicist, and Egyptologist was probably Jack of all trades 
and master of none. For Newton alone Gauss reserves the 
adjective " summus," and we feel tempted to extend it to 
Young. Tscherning terms Young the founder of physio- 
logical optics. The emission theory of light held the day 
till he made his investigations, setting forth the wave theory 
of light. Radiant light, he concluded, consists of undula- 
* Prof. Unwin's Forrest Lecture, The Electrician, XXXV, p. 46 ff., 

p. 77 ff. 

t Ernst Heinrich, 17951878; Wilhelm, 18041891; and Eduard, 


tions of the luminiferous ether. The far-reaching nature 
of his investigations was not grasped at the time, and 
Lord Brougham had an easy task in criticising one so 
unknown to fame as Young then was. Sydney Smith re- 
marked that Brougham had made two great discoveries in the 
Edinburgh Review. The first was that Byron was no poet, 
the second that Young was no philosopher.* Young pub- 
lished a masterly reply to Brougham, who had asserted that 
he could find in the papers, containing the investigations, 
" nothing which deserves the name either of experiment or 
discovery/' deemed them " destitute of every species of 
merit," and admonished the Royal Society for printing such 
" paltry and unsubstantial papers/' Thoughtful people 
read the Edinburgh Review : they did not read the pamphlet 
of Young, which remained unknown. He accounted for the 
first time for the constancy of the angle of contact of a 
solid and of a liquid. He was the first to formulate the term 
" energy/' He introduced absolute measurements in elasticity 
by defining the modulus as the weight which would double 
the length of a rod of unit cross-section to which it was 
hung. He quite saw the impossibility of any material theory 
of heat, holding that it consisted of vibrations of the particles 
of bodies, " larger and stronger than those of light/' With 
interests as wide as those of Leonardo da Vinci, he turned 
his attention to the hieroglyphic inscriptions found on Egyp- 
tian remains. He provided the beginnings of a hieroglyphic 
alphabet and he provided a hieroglyphic vocabulary of about 
two hundred signs, most of which have been confirmed by 
recent research. The thoughtful public, however, was per- 
suaded that the enormous labours of Young were worthy of 
little respect, and, thanks to controversialists like Brougham, 
little was heard of Young's contributions till they were 
adopted abroad. 

Sir Humphry Davy opposed the atomic theory of Dalton, 
and Dalton in turn opposed the law of volumes of Gay- 
Lussac. Hermann Kolbe broke down the formalism of the 
older chemical type theory, but he stood out virulently against 
the representatives of modern chemistry. Fierce battles 
raged between rival optical theories of emission and undula- 
tion, and they also raged between rival theories as to the 
* Horner, Life of Sir C. Lyell, I, p. 4?o. 


origin and maintenance of the power of the Voltaic Pile.* 
The lively contests of the Wernerians and the Huttonians 
occupy a large chapter in the troubled history of geology. 
Nor has the controversial aspect of science disappeared in 
our own day. Take an example. The labours of Gregor 
Mendel have been a long time coming into their own. After 
prolonged experiments he wrote a paper, giving a clear and 
concise account of his results, and sent it to the able botanist 
Nageli. This met with no response. Undaunted at first, 
he sent it to a local scientific journal in 1865, where it lan- 
guished in obscurity. Meeting with no recognition, he 
died a disappointed and embittered man. Despite all ap- 
pearances to the contrary, he frequently remarked, " Meine 
Zeit wird schon kommen." The time came, but it came to 
him as it came to Semmelweis, too late, for his body lay 
in the grave. Mr. Bateson and Mr. Punnett of Cambridge 
are the prominent exponents of his ideas, which of course 
they have developed. The leaders of the Biometric School 
of Inheritance are the late W. F. R. Weldon and Mr. Karl 
Pearson, f Is it unfair to hold that this School of Inherit- 
ance viewed with marked disfavour the Mendelian School? 
The spirit of stillness, not the spirit of strife, is the spirit 
in which illuminating ideas fill the mind of the investigator. 
His brilliancy and his daring may be spoilt by his com- 
bativeness. Brilliant he must be, daring he must be. The 
qualities of patience and perseverance, of cautiousness and 
conservatism, are qualities also demanded in due proportion. 
When the discoverer broods over his conceptions, there often 
flashes upon him the big notion that will co-ordinate the 
lesser ones. The shores of the world of science are strewn 
with the wrecks of prophecies that remained unheeded be- 
cause many who might have recognised their value were 
either preoccupied with conceptions with which they clashed 
or were thick in the fray with other scientists. How many, 
except de Candolle,J cared for Goethe's divination of the 
nature of vegetable organism or for his anticipations of 
colour-theory? How many cared for the prophecy of 
Marcus Antoninus Plenicz of the germ theory of disease, 

* J. Tyndall, Faraday as a Discoverer, p. 73 ff. 
t Cf., for instance, M. Onslow, Huia Onslow, p. 78. 
t Organographie, I, pp. 243, 551. Cf. Goethe, Werke, Abth. I, Bd. VII 
(Weimer ed.). 


anticipating Pasteur by almost a hundred years? How 
many cared when in 1846 Rasori announced that parasites 
produced fevers? * How many cared for the prophecy of 
Faraday of the electric telegraph or the similar prophecy 
of Gauss f in 1835 ? How many cared for the anticipation of 
the principle of spectrum analysis discerned by Bolzano 
of Prague in 1842? How many cared for the experiments of 
Joseph Henry, the American, who so far back as 1842 
carried out experiments similar to those carried out by the 
greatest of all the pupils of Helmholtz, Heinrich Hertz, and 
Henry prophesied that the discharge was oscillatory? J 
How many cared for the mathematical demonstration of the 
oscillatory nature of the discharge given by Lord Kelvin in 
1853? How many cared when James Thomson predicted 
in 1850 that when you knew the mechanical equivalent of 
a degree of temperature and the work of the expansion of 
ice, you could calculate how much the freezing point of water 
must be lowered by pressure? How many cared for the 
anticipation of spectrum analysis in 1845 or ^ le prophetic 
work on the nature of fluorescence announced by Sir Gabriel 
Stokes in 1860? How many to the year 1900 cared for the 
outcome of Gregor Mendel's experiments? 

A list of predictions like this sets one in a frame of mind 
to raise again the old question, Can a man do his work too 
soon? Kant is reported to have said to Stagemann in 
1797: " I have come too soon; after a hundred years people 
will begin to understand me rightly, and will then study 
my books anew and appreciate them." || Did Thomas 
Young, as Helmholtz maintained,^ come a generation too 
soon? Did James Hutton, as Huxley maintained,** come 

* Sir R. Ross, Memoirs, p. 119. 

t Gauss wrote to Schumacher: "With a budget of 150 thalers [22 
ios.] annually for Observatory and Magnetic Institute together, really 
extensive trials cannot of course be made. But could thousands of 
thalers be bestowed thereon, I think that, for instance, electro-magnetic 
telegraphy might be carried to a perfection and to dimensions at which 
imagination almost starts back." Cf. Briefwechsel swischen Gauss und 
Schumacher, II, p. 41 iff. 

J M. Pupin, From Immigrant to Inventor, p. 266. 

Kirchhoff, Gesammelte Abhandlungen, p. 625; Kelvin, Baltimore 
Lectures, p. 100. 

II Tagebucher, von Varnhagen von Ense f I, p. 46. 

II H. L. F. von Helmholtz, Vortrage und Reden, I, p. 279. 

** T. H. Huxley, Geological Reform, 1869. 


before his time ? Kant, Young, and Hutton of course stand 
in the front rank. We may, however, raise the question 
about much smaller men. Did Jeremias Benjamin Richter 
anticipate the labours of Dalton too soon? * His mind was 
filled with the idea of applying mathematics to chemistry in 
general and with ascertaining the atomic weight of the 
different elements, and we must not forget that Cuvier dates 
the revolution in chemistry from the introduction of the 
mathematical spirit. 

While it is possible that some men arrive too soon for 
the absolute appreciation of their services, it is certain that 
many have been denied this appreciation because scientists 
were engrossed with the suppositions they entertained or 
were too busily employed in fighting other discoverers to 
afford time to note the worth of their views. William 
Smith (1769 1839) is reckoned the father of British 
geology to-day, but in his own day William Whewell notes 
that Smith " had long pursued his own thoughts without aid 
and without sympathy." f " No literary cultivation of 
his youth awoke in him the speculative love of symmetry and 
system; but a singular clearness and precision of the classi- 
fying power, which he possessed as a native talent, was exer- 
cised and developed by exactly those geological facts among 
which his philosophical task lay. Some of the advances 
which he made had been entered upon by others who preceded 
him; but of all this he was ignorant, and perhaps went on 
more steadily and eagerly to work out his own ideas from 
the persuasion that they were entirely his own." J He be- 
longed to that race of amateurs who have assisted so greatly 
by their discoveries, a race that used to flourish more in 
Great Britain than in any other country. But " Stratum 
Smith," though known at home, was unknown abroad. The 
Continent took as little notice of his geological conceptions 
as he himself took of Continental conceptions. 

If anyone wishes to disbelieve in progress, we commend 
to his attention the able book F. Rosenberger has written on 
the Geschichte der Physik. He gives a long list of 
references to theories of forgotten scientists whose labours 

* H. Kopp, Geschichte der Chcmic, II, p. 350; A. Wurtz, Histoire dcs 
Doctrines Chemiques, pp. Q, 13. 

f W. Whewell, History of the Inductive Sciences, III, p. 427, 
{ Ibid., p. 423- 


before and after 1850 lay buried in unkindly oblivion till 
an historian like himself resurrected them. It is a saddening 
and maddening piece of work. It is saddening when we 
reflect that men have toiled and their toil has been ignored. 
It is maddening when we also reflect that because their toil 
has been ignored their work has had to be done all over again. 
The proportion of first-class brains in the world is always 
small. The Pearson curves show that out of a hundred candi- 
dates in a mathematical examination only six of them will 
gain out of a total of 100 over 80 marks, while in a literary 
examination only one out of a hundred candidates will gain 
over 80 marks. In blunt English, this means that on the 
literary side of the activities of a college out of a hundred 
undergraduates there is only one of them likely to prove 
his worth by gaining a first-class in the Tripos examination. 
Oddly enough, the Pearson curves allow of a higher propor- 
tion of mathematical candidates turning out well. The 
examination success does not perhaps prove very much, for 
there is a whole world between the powers of absorbing the 
contents of a book and the powers that originate ideas. 
When Robertson Smith was at Aberdeen University he took 
for his degree mental and moral science as well as mathe- 
matics. Bain was his Professor in the former subject. 
Temperamentally, Robertson Smith, who was a most pug- 
nacious individual, did not care for Bain's school of thought. 
At his degree examination he answered Bain's questions as 
Bain would have them answered, and then he characteristic- 
ally appended his own refutations of the answers he had 
written. Bain was too fair-minded not to give Robertson 
Smith his first-class. Then, to Bain's astonishment, Robert- 
son Smith asked his Professor for a testimonial. He re- 
ceived it, and here it is : " Mr. Robertson Smith has shown 
unequalled capacity in absorbing knowledge : whether he can 
reproduce it remains to be seen/' This testimonial puts the 
point precisely. There are many who can absorb knowledge. 
How many can reproduce it? Few indeed are the men 
capable of this high task, and, as we turn over the leaves 
of Rosenberger's volumes, we sigh as we witness the striking 
results of investigator after investigator washed in the waters 
of Lethe. 

The fruits of the labours of Berthollet in chemistry re- 


mained ungathered till Professor Ostwald put his hands to 
this tree of knowledge. Berthollet and Bergmann gave rise to 
the view of the " manifold play of forces acting to and fro, 
the result being that every one gets its due. The more 
powerful substance gets more, the weaker less. Only in 
cases where one of the possible compounds in consequence 
of its properties entirely leaves the field of contest, either 
by falling down as insoluble or escaping as gas, can that 
complete decomposition take place which Bergmann held 
to be the normal result" * These ideas were neglected till 
1867 when two Norwegian chemists, Guldberg and Waage, 
" put the ideas of Berthollet into precise mathematical form 
and subjected the resulting equations to the test of observa- 
tion and verification." f Another chemist, Berthelot, re- 
vived Bergmann's theory in his famous third law derived 
from thermo-chemistry, and this in turn was corrected by 
Willard Gibbs,J who also endured neglect for a generation. 
Bergmann anticipated some of the work of Berzelius. Ber- 
thollet favoured the view that heat was a material substance, 
for did he not belong to the range of ideas favoured by the 
French physicists brought up in the school of Newton and 
Laplace? In chemistry Laplace dominated Berthollet, who 
held himself aloof from the teaching of a founder of chem- 
istry, Lavoisier. Presuppositions were present to his mind. 
Influenced by the mathematical theory of attraction and by 
the mechanical laws of equilibrium, on which Laplace and 
his school laid so much stress, Berthollet sought to co- 
ordinate chemical affinity with what he called astronomical 
attraction. There was a germ of truth in Berthollet's ideas, 
but Proust and Richter came along with their theory of 
fixed proportions, and the work of Berthollet sank into 

The atomic theory of Dalton was as ill received in Eng- 
land on its discovery in 1803 as it was well received on the 
Continent. His English contemporaries paid as scanty 

* W. Ostwald, Die Energie und ihre Wandlungcn, p. 20. 

t Ibid., p. 21. 

j W. Ostwald, Lehrbuch der allgemcinen Chemie, II, p. 163 (pt. II) ; 
Berthelot, Comptes Rendus, p. 118. 

W. Ostwald, Lehrbuch der allgemeinen Chemie f II, p. 557 (ist ed.) ; 
Die Energie und ihre Wandlungen, p. 20; H. Kopp, Entwickelung der 
Chemie, p. 271 ff. 


attention to it as Bacon paid to Harvey's discovery of the 
circulation of the blood or to Napier's invention of log- 
arithms. Yet the facts on which Dalton based his theory 
are incontrovertible. Sir Humphry Davy propounded 
objection after objection : that was his contribution to 
Dalton's mighty achievement. 

By his celebrated hypothesis on the behaviour of equal 
volumes of different gases towards pressure, temperature, 
and chemical combination, Pietro Avogadro took in 1811 
the first step towards the establishment of the atomic theory 
of matter. Forced by difficulties in his hypothesis, he con- 
ceived the idea of a compound atom or particle which he 
called the molecule. His conception commended itself to 
Ampere. It was, however, 1840 before a chemist of the 
standing of Laurent would consider it. It is curious to ob- 
serve that there was a " radicle " or German way of looking 
at the atomic theory and a " type " or French way of looking 
at it. Avogadro and Ampere were in a position to explain, 
for instance, how a certain number of molecules of hydrogen 
were able to combine with an equal number of molecules 
of chlorine.* Avogadro put forward this significant fact, 
and it suffered neglect. Ampere also put it forward, and it 
similarly suffered neglect. 

In 1849 Foucault showed the direct reversal of the 
sodium line in the spectrum of the electric arc. His 
anticipation of a fruitful line of activity was lost sight of 
till Gustav Kirchhoff took it up. He wrote in 1859 : " I 
conclude that coloured flames in the spectra of which bright 
lines present themselves, so weaken rays of the colour of 
these lines, when such rays pass through them, that in place 
of the bright lines, dark ones appear as soon as there is 
brought behind the flame a source of light of sufficient in- 
tensity, in which these lines are otherwise wanting." f Kirch- 
hoff " at once gave birth to two great applications of this 
principle the search, through the study of the spectra of 
distant stellar sources of light, after the ingredients which 
are present in those distant luminaries, and the search, 
through the study of the flames of terrestrial substances, 

* A. Wurtz, Theorie Atomique, p. 64; A. Rau, Die Theoricn dcr 
modernen Chcmie, II, p. 107 ff. 

t Sir G. Stokes, Philosophical Magazine, March 1860, p. 194 ff. 
Cf. J. Scheiner, Astronomical Spectroscopy, p. 148. 


for new spectral lines announcing yet undiscovered ele- 

Geology, chemistry, and physico-chemistry all alike wit- 
ness to the indifference of the followers of these subjects. 
Discoveries are made, and are made to be ignored or to be 
forgotten. There is a book supposed to be written on the 
snakes of Iceland, and when you open it you turn over 
page after page till in the middle of it you meet the sentence, 
" There are no snakes in Iceland/ 1 There are at times when 
we feel sorely tempted to think that not a few scientific men 
have come to the conclusion, There are no discoveries in 
science, or rather, There are no discoveries in science except 
those that fit in with our preconceived ideas. Save on 
some such hypothesis as this, how are we to account for 
so MANY cases of neglect? A case here and a case there 
we might understand, but we encounter many cases. What 
are we to conclude? All the names we have given are those of 
men admittedly to-day in the foremost position. They are 
not the names of second-rate and third-rate observers. 

The indifference and the neglect we behold in geology, 
chemistry, and physico-chemistry we behold in the biological 
sciences, and, above all, as we shall see, in mathematics and 
mathematical physics. Christian Conrad Sprengler was a 
naturalist filled with enthusiasm who " after being ejected 
from the rectorate of Spandau for neglecting his flock in 
favour of flowers, settled down to a frugal life in Berlin, 
and gave lessons in language and botany. The commonest 
plant became new by what he had to say about it; a hair, 
a spot, gave him opportunities for questions, ideas, investi- 
gations/'* He pointed out that many flowers are " dicho- 
gamous " that is, that though the organs for self-fertilisa- 
tion exist in the same flower, nevertheless because of a want 
of time-keeping or for other reasons, pollination is carried 
out by crossing, wherein the visits of the insects are, through 
elaborate existing arrangements, instrumental. In 1793 he 
published his astonishing book, The Secret of Nature dis- 
covered in the Structure and Fertilisation of Flowers. 
Johann von Sachs, in his Geschichte der Botanik, considers 
Sprengel's little work to contain " the first attempt to explain 
the genesis of organic forms out of definite relations to their 
* J. A. Thomson, The Science of Life, p. 192. 


environment.'' * To-day it is a classic, but from 1793 to 
1859 it remained on the topmost shelves of the library, 
covered with the dust of sixty years. 

In 1837 Darwin had written in his note-book, "Do not 
plants which have male and female organs together, yet 
receive influence from other plants ? "f The answer to such a 
question seemed to him " full of truth." The answer had 
already been given by Sprengel forty-four years before. In 
other words, Darwin was doing work that had been done 
once for all. In 1841 he heard of The Secret of Nature 
through Robert Brown, who, " in common with the rest of 
the world, looked on Sprengel's ideas as fantastic." t 

Ah, yes, remarks the objector, this happened during the 
first half of the nineteenth century. To-day scientific 
periodicals are taken in every laboratory, and such scanda- 
lous neglect is utterly out of the question. Is this really 
the case? We shall come to Fabre in a moment, but now 
we must glance at the career of that astonishing Russian, 
Karl Ernst von Baer. As we all know, the ancestors of 
many Russians like von Baer have gone to Russia just as the 
ancestors of the Huguenots like Emil Du Bois Reymond 
have gone to Germany. Von Baer (1792 1876) broke 
the spell that Cuvier had cast on the natural sciences. He 
stands midway between Cuvier and Darwin. With his geo- 
graphical and anthropological studies, he combined his out- 
standing morphological labours, and all of it is characterised 
by a rare breadth of mind and an even rarer sense of balance. 
T. II. Huxley shows that von Baer recognised development 
as the " sole basis of zoological classification ; while in France 
Cuvier and Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire were embittering each 
other's lives with endless merely anatomical discussions and 
replications, and while in Germany the cautious study of 
nature was given up for the spinning of Natur-philosophies 
and other hypothetical cobwebs." || Von Baer's work was 
negative as well as positive. His negative work was to get 

* J. von Sachs, Geschichtc dcr Dotanik. 

t F. Darwin. Life of Darwin, I, p. 90; III, p. 257. 

j Nature, 1874, p. 80. 

His Autobiography wa s published in 1865, and Stieda published 
his Life in 1877. Professor R. Stolzc gives many documents in his 
K. 11. von Baer nnd seine Weltanschauung. 

|| T. H. Huxley in Taylor, Scientific Memoirs, New Series, p. 176. 


rid of the metaphysical speculations that were hampering the 
rising school of biology. Some men competent to judge 
assign to him the position of being the greatest embryologist 
of his age, if not indeed of all time. By his positive work 
he augmented our knowledge of the early development of 
the germs of animals by discovering the ovum in the body 
of mammals before fructification.* Nor is this by any 
means his sole contribution to embryology. He pursued his 
researches in order to perceive what light the facts of classi- 
fication threw on the facts of development. In effect, he 
raised the question, Does the changing embryo of the higher 
animal gradually pass through the permanent forms of the 
lower animals ? f Do animals recapitulate in their own de- 
velopment the ancestry of the race ? As Arthur Milnes Mar- 
shall put it (1852 1893), "They climb up their genea- 
logical tree/' 

Opposed as he was to extreme Darwinianism, von Baer 
recognised that " the higher and lower development of the 
animal coincides perfectly with that histological and mor- 
phological differentiation which gradually arises in the course 
of the development of the individual/' J Development is in 
truth the establishment of differences. He sums up his 
conclusions when he states that the " development of an 
individual of a certain animal form is determined by two 
conditions : first, by a progressive development of the animal 
by increasing histological and morphological differentiation; 
secondly, by the metamorphosis of a more general form 
into a more special one/' It is melancholy to have to add 
that the greatest embryologist of all time, though he was 
known in Russia and Germany, was completely unknown 
elsewhere. In England, W. B. Carpenter and T. H. Huxley 
drew attention to his manifold activities. The latter gave 
extracts from von Baer's principal writings thirty years 
after the Russian had begun his researches. The reaction 
against natural selection is now in full swing, and there is 

* Cf. J. A. Thomson, The Science of Life, p. 123. Cf. also Lebens- 
gcschichtc Cuvier's von H. E. Bacr, ed. Stieda, 1897, p. 72. 

t K. E. von. Baer, Ucber Entwickclungsgcschichte der Thiere Beo- 
bachtung und Reflexion, fifth scholion. Cf. T. H. Huxley in Taylor, 
Scientific Memoirs, pp. 186, 189. 

J T. H. Huxley in Taylor, Scientific Memoirs, p. 219. 

Ibid., p. 220. 


every reason to expect that at last the writings of von 
Baer, who passed away in 1876, will at last come into their 
own. But look at the time that day has been deferred! 
It took Huxley thirty years, and it is going to take us if 
von Baer's writings really are read close on a hundred. 

The life of Jean Henri Casimir Fabre extends to almost 
a hundred years, for he was born in 1823 and lived to 1915. 
He was always that incomparable observer Darwin deemed 
him to be. The English scientist read the first volume of 
Fabre's Souvenirs, dying before the second volume of them 
appeared in 1883. ^ n spite of the recognition of men of the 
rank of Darwin, the neglect of Fabre persisted to the year 
1910. By then he had reached the mature age of eighty- 
seven, and surely that was a late stage in his life for recog- 
nition at last to be flung to him. True, this recognition 
continued to increase from 1910 to 1915, so that Fabre had 
gleams of sunshine to brighten the declining days of one who 
suffered the bitter winter of neglect. It is, we fear, per- 
fectly possible even in our day for a man to do research of 
the highest class, and for this work to fail in securing recog- 

On November 30, 1897, Lord Rayleigh, the President of 
the Royal Society, delivered the address at the anniversary 
meeting, and the burden of it was the neglect which so 
often fell to the scientific pioneer of new paths. Think of 
the President of the Royal Society facing the assembled 
P'ellows of that august body, and the chief matter in his 
address is the ignorance and neglect of work done by the 
very scientists who were present! For the Fellows of the 
Royal Society number among them or ought to number 
among them all the ablest scientists of the day. " For the 
advancement of science/ 3 Lord Rayleigh announced, " the 
main requirement is, of course, original work of a high 
standard, adequately explained and published. But this is 
not enough. The advances so made must be secured, and 
this can hardly be, unless they are appreciated by the scien- 
tific public. In some branches of Pure Mathematics it is 
said that readers are scarcer than writers. At any rate the 
history of science shows that important original work is 
liable to be overlooked, and is perhaps the more liable the 
higher the degree of originality. The names of T. Young, 


Mayer, Carnot, Waterston, and B. Stewart will suggest 
themselves to the physicist ; and in other branches, doubtless, 
similar lists might be made of workers whose labours re- 
mained neglected for a shorter or a longer time. In looking 
into the more recent progress of Geometrical Optics, I have 
been astonished to find how little correlation there has been 
between the more important writings. That Coddington 
should have remained unknown in Germany and von Seidel 
in England need not greatly surprise us; but in this subject 
it would appear that a man cannot succeed in making even 
his countrymen to attend to him. Coddington seems to have 
heard nothing of Cotes and Smith, and Hamilton nothing 
of Airy and Coddington. 

It is true that no two writers on theoretical subjects could 
differ more in taste and style than do Hamilton and Cod- 
dington. The latter addressed himself to special problems, 
the solution of which seemed to have practical importance. 
Among his achievements was the rule relating to the curva- 
ture of images, generally known as PetzvaFs, although 
Petzval's work was of much later date. Hamilton, on the 
other hand, allowed his love of generality and of analytical 
developments to run away with him. In his Memoir on 
Systems of Rays, with its elaborate and rambling supple- 
ments, there is little to interest the practical optician, though 
the mark of genius is throughout apparent. It was only 
in two or three pages of a later paper that he applied his 
powerful methods to the real problem of Optics. As Fin- 
sterwalder has remarked, his " six radical constants of aber- 
ration," expressing the general properties of a symmetrical 
instrument, are at once an anticipation and a generalisation 
of von Seidel's theorems. But the published work is the 
barest possible summary. If Hamilton had been endowed 
with any instinct for Optics proper, he could have developed 
these results into a treatise of first-class importance. In 
more recent times Hamilton's footsteps have been followed 
by Maxwell as well as by Thiesen and Bruns, of whom the 
two latter do not seem to have realised that Hamilton (or 
even Maxwell) had concerned himself with the subject at 
all. The natural development of Hamilton's ideas will be 
found in an able memoir by Schwarzschild ( 1905). 
I have spoken of English work that lay neglected, but a 


scarcely less notable instance is the splendid discovery of the 
microscopic limit by Fraunhofer, a man who combined in 
the highest degree practical skill with scientific insight. 
Thanks to the researches of Abbe and Helmholtz, it is now 
well known that there is a world that lies for ever hidden 
from our vision, however optically aided; but neither of 
these eminent men realised that the discovery had been 
anticipated by Fraunhofer. Some, perhaps, may doubt 
whether Fraunhofers argument, founded upon the disap- 
pearance of spectra from gratings of extreme fineness, is of 
adequate cogency. To this I may reply that I was myself 
convinced by it in 1870, before either Abbe or Helmholtz 
had written a word upon the subject/' * 

The annals of the nineteenth century bear testimony to 
many examples of neglect besides those mentioned by Lord 
Rayleigh. Among its most outstanding names is that of 
Laplace (1749 1827). His attitude to the universe was 
a purely impersonal one. There are forces at work, and his 
object was to understand the nature of those forces. There 
was therefore no sceptical tendency in his mind when he told 
Napoleon his reason why in the volumes of his masterpiece, 
the Mecanique Celeste, the name of God did not appear. 
His answer meant that personality did not come within the 
scope of his labours : " Sire, je n'ai pas besoin de cette hypo- 
these." In his book he gave, between 1799 and 1825, an 
admirable analysis of the outcome of Newton's work. True, 
Newton's body had lain in the grave if we take the latter 
date for ninety-eight years, but what of that? If nature 
never makes a leap, why should scientists be in a hurry? 
Of course the higher the originality of the work, the less 
danger of any scientist being in an undue hurry. Many in- 
vestigators had been labouring since Newton's death in 1727, 
and Laplace had popularised their labours in his Exposition 
du Systeme du Monde, which appeared in 1797. Behind the 
Mecanique Celeste and the Exposition du Systeme du Monde, 
we perceive the whole time the Principia is looming in the 
background of Laplace's thought.f It is not a little remark- 
able to note that much as Laplace busied himself with the 

* Royal Society Proceedings, Series A, LXXX, 1908, p. 239 ff . 
f On the influence of Newton, cf. R. Wolf's informing Handbuch 
der Astronomic, ihrer Geschichte und Litteratur. 



calculation of the combined effects of gravitational forces at 
various points in space, he entirely ignored the question how 
such effects come about. Kant thought that he had come 
too soon, and the writings of Laplace bear their witness to 
the pathos of this fact. Forty years before Kant put forth 
his nebular hypothesis,* Laplace, in complete ignorance of 
the work of the Konigsberg philosopher, performed the task 
once again. There is a certain nemesis in the circumstance 
that just as Laplace neglected to read Kant, so some scientists 
in the opening decades of the nineteenth century placed the 
Mecanique Celeste in the dusty recesses of their library. 

We know no one we can quite range alongside Laplace, 
except Lagrange, who is one of the greatest mathematical 
geniuses of the nineteenth century. At a not too respectful 
distance, however, we think Evariste Galois (1811 1831) 
claims a place. Cut off in his twenty-first year, he did work 
of rare suggestiveness. During his brief span of days it 
was beginning to be recognised that geometrical transforma- 
tion had its counterpart in the transformation of algebraical 
forms by the processes of substitution. These processes of 
substitution received some attention at the hands of young 
Galois. " Le merite de Galois/' points out Professor Sylow, 
" ne consiste pas essentiellement dans ses propositions, mais 
dans la generalite de la methode qu'il appliqua. Cest son 
admirable theoreme fondamental qui a clonne a la theorie des 
equations sa forme definitive, et d'ou est sortie, en outre, 
la theorie des groupes generalisee, qui est d'une si grande 
importance, on peut le dire, pour toutes les branches des 
mathematiques, et qui deja, entre les mains de Jordan, de 
Klein, de Lie, de Poincare et d'autres, a enrichi la science 
d'une longue suite de decouvertes importantes." f From 1831 
the fragments of Galois remained unpublished, and of course 
unrecognised. Then Liouville published them in 1846. % 
When submitted to the Academic Fran^aise des Sciences, 
Lacroix and Poisson had reported on them as almost un- 
intelligible. In 1866 Serret made some attempt to render 
the ideas of Galois accessible to the general public interested 

* Lord Kelvin, Popular Lectures and Addresses, II, p. 65; G. F. 
Becker, American Journal of Science, V, 4th series, 1898. 

t Professor Sylow's paper on Abel's work is in the " Memorial 
Volume," and our quotation is from p. 24. 

t Liouville, Journal, II ; cf . Picard's reprint. 


in science.* The first really valuable step to make them 
generally known was taken by Camille Jourdain when he 
dealt with them in his Theorie des Substitutions, published in 
1870. Forty years after his premature death, one scientist 
perceived in his short papers the germs of the quite novel 
and comprehensive " Theory of Groups." There is no more 
competent judge than Arthur Cayley (1821 1895), and 
those who require to know his opinion of Galois can note it 
in the Encyclopedia Britannica. It is a tribute paid by one 
master-mathematician to another master-matheniatician.t 

The importance of Evariste Galois's " Theory of Groups " 
is evident in all that Marie Sophus Lie (18421899) did 
to 1877. This outstanding Norwegian thinker believed that 
this theory was destined to fill a central position in the mathe- 
matical science of the future. " The conception of Group 
and Invariant was for him [i.e. Lie]/' writes M. N6ther,$ 
" not only a methodical aspect from which he intended to 
review the entire older region of mathematics, but also the 
element which was destined to unify the whole of mathe- 
matical science." For many a weary day after he set forth his 
wonderful conception, his numerous writings remained with- 
out any sign that the scientific world had ever heard of it. 
" Like my teaching or dislike it," said one of our teachers at 
school, " but don't say you don't care." 

On the principle that, as Willard Gibbs found to his cost, 
no good thing could come out of Connecticut, so Lie found 
that scientists clearly thought that no good thing could 
come out of Oslo. If it did, they did not care for it. In 
process of time M. Picard and Henri Poincare but what 
was there that Poincare had not the intuition to see came 
to perceive the worth of Lie's ideas. || The man, however, 
who brought Lie's conception before the world of science 
was undoubtedly F. Klein, whose " Erlangen Programme " 
of 1872, entitled Vergleichende Betrachtungen uber neurere 
geometrische Forschungen, forced its members to see, 

* Serret, Algkbre Superieure. 

t Cf. Cayley's article on " Equation," p. 32. 

t Mathematische Annalen, XLIIL 

Trade d'Analyse, 1896, III. 

II Cf. Ency. Math. Wiss., II, p. 402; Mother, Mathematische Annalen, 
XLIII, p. 22; F. Meyer, Bericht, p. 231 ; Ency. Brit. art. on the " Theory 
of Groups." 


whether they were willing or not. Cayley and James Joseph 
Sylvester (1814 1897) had been working on lines similar 
to Lie's. The form in which our mathematicians accept the 
invariant theory is the form in which the great Sylvester 
presented it. The terminology of it which they accept is 
the terminology he introduced. Still, it was not till 1897, 
when Professor Burnside published his Theory of Groups 
of Finite Order, that Lie's points came before the average 
F.R.S. Lie had begun his work in 1873, and he threw 
himself so whole-heartedly into it for the next three years 
that he once spoke of himself as having, during that period, 
lived only among his groups of transformations. In 1877 
he published some results in a number of memoirs in a new 
journal in Oslo, edited by Sars, Mtiller, and himself, and 
some of them in the Mathematische Annalen, a paper that 
surely ought to have rendered them accessible. He suffered 
severely from the entire lack of interest bestowed upon his 
papers, for the mathematicians practically said, despite men 
like my old teacher, " We do say we don't care." Mr. 
A. R. Forsyth writes that Lie's " story at this time reads 
like the occasional experience of the investigator who lives, 
remote from his fellow-workers and unstimulated by eager 
pupils, voyaging through his sea of thought alone, at the end 
finding himself weary, isolated, unacknowledged, perhaps 
therefore discouraged, and certainly left uncheered by any 
confident satisfaction that others are following him." * He 
went through his Gethsemane alone, and his cri du cccnr 
moves more than the morbidly sensitive. 

Like Gauss, who suffered in the same fashion for a while, 
Sophus Lie ceased to look after invariants, and busied 
himself for the rest of his life with differential geometry. 
In 1886 he left Oslo for the chair of mathematics at Got- 
tingen. " Unhappily," speculates Mr. A. R. Forsyth, 
" recognition appears to have been, not merely slow in 
coming, but almost too late when it came. There is no 
doubt that his ceaseless activity in thought and work had 
undermined his strength, and his spirit had brooded in lone- 

* Proceedings, Royal Society, LXXV, 1905, p. 64. It is greatly to 
be desired that this Society should gather the obituaries of its Fellows 
into single volumes occasionally. Vol. LXXV is a notable saving of 
time to him who wants to grasp the personalities of scientists. We 
are not all Laplaces in our indifference to personality. 


liness." * At Gottingen honours came to him. He received 
the honorary or foreign membership of societies and acade- 
mies in great numbers. Four years before his death, he 
became a Foreign Member of our Royal Society. At the 
back of his mind lay the thought that from 1877 to 1899 
he was only forty-seven when he died he might have been 
working at the discoveries we now know to be so brilliant, 
and thanks to the absence of recognition he had not been 
able to execute the task he had meant to execute. Other 
tasks had come, but they were not this is the sting of the 
whole matter the tasks he had himself chosen when he 
was a man in the heyday of life. He was barely twenty- 
one when he set to work on his great contribution, and in 
his case it was certainly true that the thoughts of youth 
are long, long thoughts. As for his belated honours, he 
felt precisely as Thackeray felt. " When I was a lad/' the 
great novelist remarked, " I wanted toffee but I hadn't a 
shilling. Now I'm a man and I have the shilling, but I 
don't want the toffee." What Sophus Lie wanted was 
recognition for his ideas in 1877 : what he did not want was 
honours for himself. For he experienced the feeling that 
every true worker experiences, and that is that his concep- 
tions are dearer, far dearer, to him than any membership 
of any Academy or any Society when it comes far too 
late. Then he has the shilling, but what does he care for 
the " toffee " ? 

The fame of Henry Cavendish (1731 1810), son of 
Lord Charles Cavendish, has only come to be recognised in 
any widespread form during the last century. True, Clerk- 
Maxwell knew Cavendish to be that supreme genius he 
is now recognised to be. Was it that his interest in science 
was as passionless as that of Machiavelli was passionless in 
politics? He made discoveries, without giving a single 
sign that they were of signal value. Of enormous wealth, 
he was, as Biot expressed it, le plus riche de tons les savatts 
et le plus savant de tons les riches. In secret and in soli- 
tude he began his work, and in secret and in solitude he 
continued to the end. As Darwin was content simply to 
watch when Chambers published a hasty book on evolution, 
so Cavendish was content simply to watch when men advo- 

* Proceedings, Royal Society, LXXV, 1905, p. 67. 


cated theories that he had demonstrated to be wholly erro- 
neous. Everything came to him, quantitatively, and his 
family motto, " Cavendo tutus," marked the care he took 
with his experiments. 
Tennyson sang: 

Yet all experience is an arch, wherethro' 

Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades 

For ever and for ever when I move. 

How dull it is to pause, to make an end, 

To rest unburnish'd, not to shine is use! 

As tho' to breathe were life. Life piled on life 

Were all too little, and of one to me 

Little remains; but every hour is saved 

From that eternal silence, something more, 

A bringer of new things; and vile it were 

For some three suns to store and hoard myself, 

And this grey spirit yearning in desire 

To follow knowledge like a sinking star 

Beyond the utmost bound of human thought. 

Of all the poets of the Victorian Age, Tennyson was the 
most scientific in spirit, the one to whom the workings of 
the mind of the scientist were most openly revealed. Senti- 
ments like these were far more foreign to Cavendish's nature 
than the pregnant remark of Pascal : " On se persuade mieux, 
pour Tordinaire, par les raisons qu'on a soi-meme trouvees, 
que par celles qui sont venues dans Tesprit des autres." 
No man was ever more single in his desire to know the 
causes of things than Cavendish, and we may be sure that he 
felt far more than three suns the happiness Virgil promised 
to those who understood those causes. Passionless as he 
undoubtedly was, he must have experienced some of the 
joys of the spirit as well as those of the mind. His lucid 
and subtle brain was content to record his observations in 
papers that have only seen the light really in 1921 when 
the two large volumes containing them were published by Sir 
Joseph Larmor, who edited incomparably the electrical 
and dynamical papers, and by Sir Edward Thorpe, who 
edited the chemical papers.* To the non-specialist reader the 
electrical volume is more absorbing than the chemical one. 
In the latter it is obvious that Cavendish was never able 
to free himself from the presupposition of the existence of 
phlogiston. He did, however, free himself from the almost 

* H. Cavendish, Scientific Papers, 2 vols., Cambridge, 1921. 


prehistoric belief, from the classical belief, in the four ele- 
ments, earth, air, fire, and water, and he took a man's 
share in freeing others from the burden of this belief. As 
Sir Edward Thorpe shows, it was one of his papers which 
" gave a final and decisive blow to the conception of a uni- 
versal air, elementary and primordial. That its true sig- 
nificance was everywhere clearly perceived is abundantly 
proved by the literature of the period. The Royal Society 
showed its appreciation of its merit by awarding its author 
a Copley medal." Trying to ascertain the true nature of 
air and fire, he furnished the first clear and incontestable 
proof of the compound nature of water, and of the nature 
and relative proportion of its constituents. He established 
that common air was sensibly uniform in character, and this 
for the first time. 

Thomas Young was a scientist with cosmopolitan tastes 
who knew Cavendish well, and yet, to quote Sir Joseph 
Larmor's words, his " account of his [i.e. Cavendish's] 
electrical researches shows a complete ignorance of Caven- 
dish's unpublished work, and this ignorance must have been 
shared by the whole scientific world." * Cavendish was 
aware of the leading nature of the " degree of electri- 
fication " or, in our phraseology, potential. He had no 
galvanometer, and he made none. Why indeed should he? 
For he himself was a natural one, able to compare in accurate 
terms numerically the intensity of the currents he caused to 
pass through his body. Then he compared the sensations he 
felt in his wrist and elbows, estimating which of the two 
shocks he felt the more powerful. Clerk-Maxwell 
remarks : " The accuracy which Cavendish attained in the dis- 
crimination of the intensity of the shocks is truly marvellous, 
whether we judge by the consistency of his results with 
each other, or whether we compare them with the latest 
results obtained with the aid of the galvanometer, and with 
all the precautions which experience has shown to be neces- 
sary in measuring the resistance of electrolytes." f Such 
an accurate human galvanometer almost staggers belief ! 

The thrill which Lord Rayleigh's announcement of 
the discovery of argon caused to the scientific world has 

* H. Cavendish, Scientific Papers, I, p. 17. 
t Ibid., I, p. 25. 


scarcely been damped out by the lapse of time. By patient 
whittling away of known constituents of the air constituents 
which of course had long been believed to constitute it com- 
pletely he had found a small residuum which was thereto 
unknown. Lord Rayleigh himself had drawn attention to 
the fact that Cavendish had, a century earlier, also noticed a 
residual " small bubble/' More than this, he himself repeated 
this early Cavendish experiment and showed that this " small 
bubble " must have consisted of argon and the other gases 
which were found later as a corollary. This anticipation of 
the most modern work astounds one, and it is by no means 
the only instance of the kind. What is the most recent 
development in meteorology? Undoubtedly it is the study 
of the constitution of the upper atmosphere. Cavendish 
began that study twenty years before anyone else, by arrang- 
ing with a balloonist to collect samples of air at different 
heights. What is almost the last discovery in astronomy? 
Is it not that a ray of light is bent on passing near the sun ? 
Cavendish computed the amount of bending more than a 
century ago. We cannot, of course, regard him as having 
handed down the succession of Einstein, for he undoubtedly 
held Newton's view that light consisted of material cor- 
puscles. In between came a whole dynasty committed to the 
immateriality of light and the existence of ether on which 
gravity could not act. Lord Kelvin, for instance, " gave 
strong reason to feel certain that aether was outside the law 
of gravitation." It is notable that Cavendish obtained a 
result which is only half Einstein's, and is now known not 
to correspond with the facts. The remarkable point, how- 
ever, is that he should in any wise have anticipated these 
essentially modern developments. In passing, we may 
remark that among the pecuniarily independent devotees 
of science there are such outstanding names as those of 
Cavendish, Herschel, Joule, Murchison, Spottiswoode, Lyell, 
and Darwin. 

A man who could foresee in 1842 the principle of spec- 
trum analysis was no common man. Accordingly, Bern- 
hard Bolzano (1781 1848) had long given proof of his 
powers by his brilliant setting forth of the first rigid de- 
duction of the various algebraical series.* His notions, in 
* Cf. his tract on the Binomial Theorem. 


the opinion of Hermann Hankel, as to convergency of series 
are " eminently clear and correct, and no fault can be found 
with his development of those series for a real argument 
(which he everywhere presupposes) ; in the preface he gives 
a pertinent criticism of earlier developments of the Binomial 
Theorem,* and of the unrestricted use of infinite series, 
which was then common. In fact, he has everything that 
can place him in this respect on the same level with Cauchy, 
only not the art peculiar to the French of refining their 
ideas and communicating them in the most appropriate and 
taking manner. So it came about that Bolzano remained 
unknown and was soon forgotten; Cauchy was the happy 
one who was praised as a reformer of the science, and 
whose elegant writings were soon widely circulated." f Still, 
Hankel has the merit to detect value in the forgotten con- 
ceptions of Bernhard Bolzano just as he had precisely the 
same merit to detect value in the forgotten conceptions of 
Hermann Grassmann. Indeed the line of reasoning started 
by Bolzano has been carried on and developed by Weier- 
strass with unexpected and important results. % 

In his Puissance Mo trice du Feu, Sadi Carnot attempted 
in 1824 to determine mathematically the power of a steam- 
engine. His original memoir lays down that " the produc- 
tion of motion in steam-engines is always accompanied by a 
circumstance on which we must fix our attention. This 
circumstance is there establishment of equilibrium, or level, 
in the caloric that is to say, its passage from one body 
where the temperature is more or less elevated, to another 
where it is lower. . . . The production of moving force is 
therefore due in steam-engines, not to a real consumption of 
caloric, but to a transference from a hot body to a cold 
body." Implicitly he had introduced into mathematical 
and physical science the question of the availability of the 
forces of nature. Following in the steps of Laplace, Black, 
and Fourier, he held that heat was an imponderable sub- 
stance which might hide itself might become latent but 
could be neither created nor destroyed. Such a view was far 

* On this point cf. O. Stolz, Mathematische Annalen, XVIII, pp. 
255, 257. 

t H. Hankel in his article on " Limit," p. 210. 
j H. A. Schwarz, Journal fur Mathcmatik, LXXIV, 1872, p. 22. 
S. Carnot, Puissance Motrice, pp. 5-6 (1878 ed.). 


from the mind of such a sagacious observer as Henry 
Cavendish, and it was also far from the mind of Davy 
and Rum ford. There are specks on the sun, and we can 
afford to admit that there are specks on the reasoning of 
Carnot. Yet his speculations form the starting-point for 
the modern theory of thermo-dynamics. They were un- 
known in 1824 and they remained unknown long after 
1824. Benoit Pierre Emile Clapeyron, an engineer, came 
across them in 1834, and he published in the Journal de 
VEcole Poly technique * his " Memoire sur la Puissance 
Motrice de la Chaleur." Through a translation of this 
paper in Taylor's Scientific Memoirs, Lord Kelvin heard of 
Carnot's early work, and he never rested content till he had 
found it.f Through a translation in Poggendorf's Annalen, 
in 1843, Helmholtz became acquainted with the great tract 
published in 1824. 

Lord Rayleigh did more than read a Presidential Address 
to the Royal Society in 1897, for he took as lively an interest 
in the papers of other scientific men as Sir William Rowan 
Hamilton himself. The majority of scientists simply care 
for the plot they cultivate, and seldom trouble with the broad 
expanse before them. It was a sacred writer who pointed out 
that " where there is no vision the people perish," and science 
perishes with them. In the Archives of the Royal Society 
Lord Rayleigh found an abstract of a paper written by J. J. 
Waterston, who published books that are but little known. 
Interested by the brief reference, Lord Rayleigh perused 
the paper, finding, to his astonishment, that in 1845 Water- 
ston had for the first time enunciated the conception that 
the temperature of a gas is to be measured by the vis viva 
or kinetic energy of the colliding molecules. In addition to 
this, his paper contained the first calculation of molecular 
velocity, and all this had been done ten to fifteen years in 
advance of his time, anticipating much of the work of 
Clausius, Joule, and Clerk-Maxwell. Waterston enunciates 
the principle that " in mixed media the mean square mole- 
cular velocity is proportional to the specific weight of the 
molecules/' $ 

* I4th Cahier. 

t Cf. S. P. Thompson, Life of Lord Kelvin, I, pp. 132, 210, 252, 256-8, 
273, 279; II, P. 949- 
J Lord Rayleigh, Life of Lord Rayleigh, p. 45. 


As Samuel Johnson stood as a man in the market-place 
to atone for an act of disobedience as a boy, moved by a 
kindred feeling of compunction Lord Rayleigh took steps 
to have the paper published. 

Waterston was Scots, and Lord Rayleigh wrote to Tait 
at Edinburgh, and Tait replied on February 13, 1891 : " This 
promises to be a somewhat sensational inquiry worthy 
of a detective! I have reached this point, that J. J. W. 
was a civil engineer, a near relative of people living here 
now, and that he was in the employment of the East India 
Company, but disappeared about seven years ago, and not 
a trace of him has been discovered in spite of the most 
anxious search." * One of the referees of the Royal Society 
reported on Waterston's work thus : " The paper is nothing 
but nonsense, unfit even for reading before the Society.'' 
Lord Rayleigh, persisting in his search, came into communi- 
cation with George Waterston, a nephew of the writer of 
the paper. George Waterston wrote: "He [i.e. his uncle] 
talked however in a manner that seemed to me strangely 
contemptuous of scientific men with but few exceptions. 
He had not a word of complaint, nor did he speak of being 
neglected or ill-used, but I distinctly remember the Royal 
Society was characterised in very strong terms useless now 
to repeat. We have it on record what they thought of his 
paper. . . . He returned the compliment in no measured 
terms. He would not attend the meetings of the Royal 
Society of Edinburgh, though some friends sent him billets, 
and rather avoided the society of scientific men. He was of 
a most social, kind disposition, enjoying the society of young 
people. He never married, and besides his mathematical 
work he was fond of music, chess, and billiards. 

" When in India he published a book, Thoughts on Mental 
Phenomena. It had no sale and he continued his physical 
and mathematical studies, contributing papers to the Philo- 
sophical Magazine. . . . 

" His friends share your surprise that he should not have 
put forward more definite claims, but he was of a very 
retiring disposition. To me he appeared to put forth his 
papers like some mathematical question for others to tackle, 
and not being a scientific man I was never sure whether 

* Lord Rayleigh, Life of Lord Rayleigh, p. 45. 


all his contemptuous words of other scientific men were not 
the fruit of some exaggerated views of the importance of his 
own work, though he was always so simple and straight- 
forward that I put it down to his not stating his views in 
a sufficiently practical manner. I remember at one time 
in a popular magazine seeing his name coupled with that 
of Mayer in regard to the heat of the sun, and when I 
spoke to him about it he simply made a grimace. " * 

The seminal mind of Karl Friedrich Gauss (1777 1855) 
required a generation or more before it penetrated the mind 
of the average able scientist. It was more than a quarter 
of a century before the spirit of exact research he introduced 
leavened in any wise the German Universities. He lived a 
life as lonely as that of Newton, the man he placed on a 
pedestal. For twenty years his explorations on the theory 
of numbers remained as unknown as Sophus Lie's, and when 
it at last came within the ken of mathematicians, it proved 
as inexhaustible as Newton's Principia had been a century 
earlier. The parallel between the English genius and the 
German genius might be drawn out far, and the neglect of 
their respective labours fills certainly one item in it, and 
the intuition, common to them both, fills another. We can 
in part, at least understand the feelings of Gauss when as 
an old man he heard Riemann touch a string, in a great 
dissertation, that had been vibrating in the master's mind 
for fifty years, unheard and unheeded by any other mathe- 
matician, f The reluctance to publish was common to New- 
ton, J Gauss, and Cavendish, for Cavendish takes an illus- 
trious place in the history of thought. It was twenty years 
before Newton's Principia or Gauss's Disquisitiones Arith- 
metics attained any adequate meed of recognition. The 
Academic Frangaise des Sciences, after the manner of learned 
Academies, received both books with dignified but decided 
disapproval. Such a devoted member of the University of 
Cambridge as William Whewell, the Master of Trinity, 
undoubtedly is slow to admit that there was the least reluc- 
tance on the part of the University to accept Newtonian 

* Lord Rayleigh, Life of Lord Rayleigh, p. 45. The Dictionary of 
National Biography contains no notice of Waterston. 

t The Preface in Riemann, Mathematische Werke, ed. Weber, p. 517. 

J K. F. Gauss, Werke, III, pp. 401-6; V, p. 627, an important 


philosophy.* It is, however, a well-established fact that the 
University of Edinburgh taught such philosophy thirty-five 
years before the University of its discoverer.f 

Mobius and Plucker in Germany (1801 1868), recog- 
nising that too much attention had been bestowed by the 
French on mathematical analysis, turned their talents to 
refined geometrical researches, and their simultaneous labours 
long remained unknown and unrecognised. In our day, no 
doubt, their labours in the development of algebraic and geo- 
metrical methods bear notably on modern algebra and modern 
geometry. Plucker himself, curiously enough, was ignorant 
of the researches of his fellow-German, Mobius, and he was 
also ignorant of the Traite of Poncelet, published in 1822. 
Above all, he was ignorant of the mathematical theories of 
Poisson and Lord Kelvin as well as those of Gauss and 
Weber. For a long time even Gauss did not know the 
arithmetical discoveries of Fermat and the proofs of Euler, 
Lagrange, and Legendre.J Obviously, the President of the 
Royal Society might in the decade after 1867, with perfect 
propriety, have given an address of a nature similar to that 
of Lord Rayleigh's of 1897. 

George Green (1793 1841) published his extremely 
striking essay on the application of mathematical analysis 
to the theories of electricity and magnetism in 1828, and 
for all the mark it left on scientific opinion it might as well 
have remained unpublished. The latest edition of the Dic- 
tionary of National Biography contains an article on Green, 
and in the course of it Mr. G. J. Gray, the writer of it, never 
once mentions the most important piece of work Green ever 
did. To-day it is universally recognised as containing 
some of the most illuminating conceptions of the nineteenth 
century. Not till 1845 did that ardent student, Lord Kelvin, 
contrive to catch sight of it,|| and the vast majority of 

* W, Whewell, History of the Inductive Sciences, II, p. 149 ff. 

t Sir A. Grant, The Story of the University of Edinburgh, II, p. 296. 

j K. F. Gauss, Werkc, ed. Schering, I, p. 6; II, p. 444. 

Dictionary of National Biography, VIII, pp. 485-6. We ought to 
say at the same time that from a scientific point of view, as well as 
of course from an historical point of view, this Dictionary is in- 
finitely above the Biographic Univcrsclle and the Allgcmcine Deutsche, 
useful as both these series are. 

I! S. P. Thompson, Life of Lord Kelvin, I, pp. 45, 84, 99, 108, 113, 
115, 117, 141; II, PP- 686, 822, 824, 827, 829, 831, 872-3. 


scientists neither knew of it nor what is infinitely sadder 
wanted to know of it. He took it off to Paris when he 
succeeded in securing a copy from his tutor, Hopkins, and 
published it in Cr die's Journal, thus making it known if 
anyone cared as the fundamental treatment of the potential 
theory. Nor is Green the only case of such gross neglect, 
for McCullagh, the Dublin mathematician, and Sir Gabriel 
Stokes, that remarkable son of a Sligo rectory, suffered 
from it, though not quite so conspicuously as Green. 

Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier (1768 1830) published in 
1822 his famous Theorie Analytique de la Chaleur, which, in 
the hands of Ohm and Lord Kelvin,* has been applied to 
physical science, and in the hands of Dirichlet and Riemann f 
to subtle mathematical conceptions.! For fourteen years the 
manuscript of it lay hidden among the archives of the 
French Institut. 

Augustine Fresnel (1788 1827) with Thomas Young 
contributed in establishing the undulatory theory of light. 
The Academic Frangaise des Sciences received his first 
memoir on the diffraction of light, and did not print it till 
i826. Despite neglect and despite the opposition of the 
leading authorities, except Arago, he pursued his own course, 
though not altogether undauntedly. Other papers of his the 
Academic Fran9aise either lost or mislaid. There is reason 
to believe that the cavalier treatment of his papers was due 
to the opposition of Laplace and his party at the Institut, 
and this opposition even Arago failed to overcome. Reaumur 
also experienced the tyranny of the Academic Fran9aise.|| 

Neither Hermann Grassmann ^[ (1809 1877) nor 
Jakob Steiner attained the positions at Stettin and Berlin 
respectively worthy of their powers. In his Ausdehnungs- 
lehre, published in 1843, Grassmann introduced a novel 

* H. L. E. von Helmholtz, Vortrdge und Rcden, I, p. 101 ff. ; Lord Kelvin, 
Mathematical and Physical Papers, passim, and II, p. 41 ff. especially. 

t B. Riemann, Mathematische Werke, p. 218; G. A. Gibson, Pro- 
ceedings of the Edinburgh Mathematical Society, XI and II. 

t E. Mach, Principien der Wiirmlehre, p. 78 ff., Ii6ff. 

Sir J. Herschel in his article on " Light " in the old Ency. Metrop. 
Cf. W. Whewell, History of the Inductive Sciences, II. 

|| A. Maury, Les Academies d'Autrefois, I, pp. 123, 280; T. H. 
Huxley, Critiques and Addresses , p. 112. 

1f Cf. Schlegel, Hermann Grassmann and his Grassmann' sche 


fashion of considering geometrical relations. His is a 
science of pure extension, the application of which to em- 
pirical space is geometrical. He began in 1844 what Rie- 
mann continued in 1854. For his investigations he con- 
sidered space of three dimensions to be simply a particular 
case of pure extension in any number of dimensions, which 
are not necessarily determined by the same propositions as 
our empirical space. Lacking appreciation, Grassmann 
translated the Rig -Veda in 1876 and 1877, and composed a 
dictionary for it in 1872 to 1875. Like Young, he was a 
mathematico-physical student who was also a philological 
student. Alas! there is another resemblance, for both had 
to endure the prospect of no audience for their ideas. Alas ! 
the admirer of Young, Helmholtz, came close to the re- 
searches of Gauss and Plucker, and passed them by. The 
writings of Young, like those of Faraday, lay buried in 
print with none to erect a monument over the grave. Comte 
praised Gall the phrenologist, censured Cuvier, condemned 
Young's undulatory theory of light, and spoke derisively of 
the " abuse of microscopic investigations." 

Michael Faraday (1791 1867) was an experimentalist 
of unsurpassed and perhaps unsurpassable genius and divined 
the nature of magnetic and electrical action, bringing his 
divination invariably to the test of the laboratory.* Though 
not a trained mathematician, yet in spite of this serious hin- 
drance f Clerk-Maxwell was able to translate his far-reaching 
conceptions into mathematical language. In process of time 
both Clerk-Maxwell and Helmholtz J came to recognise 
the translation of Faraday's lines of force in the mag- 
netic and electrical phenomena he taught them to gaze at 
through his eyes. While his experiments attracted attention, 
his theories attracted but little till Clerk-Maxwell, who per- 
formed for him the task of popularising that Voltaire per- 
formed for Newton, and Helmholtz compelled scientists to 
perceive the enormous worth of his theories. France and 

* For Faraday's life there are Bence Jones's two volumes and 
Tyndall's graceful sketch. There is need of a fresh biography which 
will take into account recent developments of Faraday's views. No 
such book exists, and we earnestly hope it will soon exist. 

t For other hindrances cf. H. Bence Jones, Life and Letters of 
Faraday, II, p. 344, and his The Royal Institution, p. 311. 

$ H. L. F. von Helmholtz, Vortrage und Reden, II, p. 277. 


Italy became aware of the importance of Faraday's views 
before his own countrymen, who bestowed too little atten- 
tion on the conceptions of his transcendent genius. His 
electrolytic law exercised hardly any influence on the de- 
velopment of chemistry.* The labours of Sir J. J. Thomson 
and Sir William Crookes in our day and of Lord Kelvin 
in his day on the discharge of electricity in rarefied gases 
bring us back to the " dark discharge " Faraday witnessed 
in 1838 in the days before there was either spectrum analysis 
or vacuum tubes, f It is startling to find that the researches 
of Faraday could remain unknown in Germany just as 
those of Cavendish were unknown in France or even as 
those of Coulomb were unheard-of in England, The labours 
of Gauss, save by Sabine, were also ignored by our country- 
men. Of course this means that the same problems were 
attacked in the different countries, and sometimes attempted 
by men who, blissfully unaware of this circumstance, were 
once more attempting their solutions. There is conservation 
of energy in the world of matter. There is none in the world 
of mind. One point in writing this book is to draw the at- 
tention of scientists to this circumstance, and to show that 
while there has not been conservation of energy in the 
world of mind, is that any sufficient reason why there never 
should be any such mental conservation? This mental 
conservation is one of the most urgent needs of this mo- 

John Tyndall wrote with all his wonted power in his 
spirited sketch of Faraday as a Discoverer. He points out 
that " the objects of scientific thought being the passionless 
laws and phenomena of external nature, one might suppose 
that their investigation and discussion would be completely 
withdrawn from the region of feelings, and pursued by the 
cold dry light of the intellect alone. This, however, is not 
always the case. Man carries his heart with him into all 
his works. You cannot separate the moral and the emo- 
tional from the intellectual ; and thus it is that the discussion 
of a point of science may rise to the heat of the battlefield. 

* H. L. F. von Helmholtz, WissenschaftUche Abhandlungen, III, 
the Faraday Lecture, II, W. Ostwald, Der Allgemeine Chemie, II, 
Part I, p. 530. 

t Lord Kelvin, Presidential Address before the Royal Society, 
November 1893. 


The fight between rival optical theories of Emission and 
Undulation was of this fierce character; and scarcely less 
fierce for many years was the contest as to the origin 
and maintenance of the power of the voltaic pile. Volta 
himself supposed it to reside in the contact of different 
metals. . . . Volta's theory of metallic contact was so 
clear, so beautiful, and apparently so complete, that the 
best intellects of Europe accepted it as the expression of 
natural law. 

" Volta himself knew nothing of the chemical phenomena 
of the pile ; but as soon as these became known, suggestions 
and intimations appeared that chemical action, and not metal- 
lic contact, might be the real source of voltaic electricity. This 
idea was expressed by Fabroni in Italy, and by Wollaston in 
England. It was developed and maintained by those ' ad- 
mirable electricians,' Becquerel of Paris and De La Rive 
of Geneva. The Contact Theory, on the other hand, received 
its chief development and illustration in Germany. It was 
long the scientific creed of the great chemists and natural 
philosophers of that country, and to the present hour there 
may be some of them unable to liberate themselves from the 
fascination of their first-love. 

" After the researches which I have endeavoured to place 
before you, it was impossible for Faraday to avoid taking 
a side in this controversy. He did so in a paper, ' On the 
Electricity of the Voltaic Pile/ received by the Royal 
Society on April 7, 1834. His position in the controversy 
might be predicted. He saw chemical effects going hand-in- 
hand with electrical effects, the one being proportional to the 
other; and, in the paper now before us, he proved that when 
the former was excluded, the latter were sought for in 
vain. He produced a current without metallic contact; he 
discovered liquids which, though competent to transmit the 
feeblest currents competent therefore to allow the elec- 
tricity of contact to flow through them if it were able to 
form a current were absolutely powerless when chemically 
inactive. . . . 

" The memoir of the Electricity of the Voltaic Pile, pub- 
lished in 1834, appears to have produced but little impres- 
sion upon the supporters of the contact theory. These 
indeed were men of too great intellectual weight and insight 



lightly to take up or lightly to abandon a theory. Faraday 
therefore resumed the attack in a paper communicated to 
the Royal Society on February 6, 1840. In this paper he ham- 
pered his antagonists by a crowd of adverse experiments. He 
hung difficulty about the neck of the contact theory, until in 
its efforts to escape from his assaults it so changed its char- 
acter as to become a thing totally different from the theory 
propounded by Volta. The more persistently it was defended, 
however, the more clearly did it show itself to be a con- 
geries of devices, bearing the stamp of dialectic skill rather 
than that of natural truth. 

" In conclusion, Faraday brought to bear upon it an 
argument which, had its full weight and purport been under- 
stood at the time, would have instantly decided the con- 
troversy. ' The contact theory/ he urged, ' assumes that a 
force which is able to overcome powerful resistance, as 
for instance that of the conductors, good or bad, through 
which the current passes, and that again of the electrolytic 
action where lodies are decomposed by it, can arise out of 
nothing * : that without any change in the acting matter, 
or the consumption of any generating force, a current shall 
be produced which shall go on for ever against a constant 
resistance, or only be stopped, as in the voltaic trough, by 
the ruins which its exertion has heaped up in its own course. 
This would indeed be a creation of power, and is like 
no other force in nature. We have many processes by 
which the form of the power may be changed, that an 
apparent conversion of one into the other takes place. So 
we can change chemical force into the electric current, or the 
current into chemical force. The beautiful experiments of 
Seebeck and Peltier show the conversion of electricity into 
magnetism. But in no case, not even in those of the Gym- 
notus and Torpedo, is there a pure creation or a production 
of power without a corresponding exhaustion or something 
to supply it.' 

" These words were published more than two years before 
either Mayer printed his brief but celebrated essay on the 
Forces of Inorganic Nature, or Mr. Joule published his 
first famous experiments on the Mechanical Value of Heat. 
They illustrate the fact that before any great scientific 
* All the italicised portions are so done by Tyndall. 


principle receives distinct enunciation by individuals, it 
dwells more or less clearly in the general scientific mind. 
The intellectual plateau is already high, and our discoverers 
are those who, like peaks above the plateau, rise a little 
above the general level of thought at the time." * 

Long as our quotation has been, its length has been 
required in order to reinforce our conclusion that a man 
who soared so high in the intellectual heavens was eclipsed 
during and after his day. 

Faraday and Georg Simon Ohm did work on similar lines, 
though Ohm occasionally anticipated his great contemporary. 
This he notably did in 1827,! when he established the pro- 
portionality of the quantity of electricity passing through 
a circuit with the same electro-motive force in the same 
conductor. J Ohm also introduced the conception of electric 
resistance, and showed how this varies as the length and 
inversely as the thickness of the same conductor, and is 
different in different conductors. Fechner and Pouillet 
tested Ohm's law, finding it true. In spite of this confirma- 
tion of his results, Frenchmen remained sceptical of its 
validity and Englishmen scarcely heard of it. With us the 
labours of Ohm shared the same fate as those of Laplace, 
whose astronomical attitude to nature remained unknown 
except to a few specialists. Weber followed a train of ideas 
similar to those of Laplace, with the outcome that our 
text-books passed it by. Clerk-Maxwell announced that 
Faraday and himself were opposed to Weber's theory. 

In 1831, in his Krystallometrie, Hessel introduced a 
strictly geometrical treatment of problems in planes of sym- 
metry, taking the lead in deducing the different possible 
forms of symmetry and in showing that in all thirty-two 
different forms of symmetry or groups are geometrically 
possible. These thirty-two fundamental groups of crystals 
fall into six classes, according to the different systems of 

* J. Tyndall, Faraday as a Discoverer, p. 73 ff. 

t Cf. his Die galvanische Kettc, mathematisch bcarbeitct. 

t Cf. Lommel's introduction to Ohm's collected papers, Gesammelte 
Abhandlungen, VII; Sir C. Wheatstone, Bakerian Lecture, 1843, in 
Philosophical Transactions, 1843, P- 303 ff. ; Lord Kelvin, Popular 
Lectures and Addresses, I, p. 76. 

Liebisch, Physikalische Krystallo graphic, pp. 3-50; Groth, Physik- 
alische Krystallographic, p. 324 ff . 


crystallographic axes or the number of planes of symmetry 
belonging to them. His Krystallometrie was forgotten for 
a generation, and then Bravais rediscovered it in his Etudes 
CrystallographiqueSj which appeared in 1851. 

In the course of his short career James McCullagh 
(1809 1847) did geometrical work sufficient almost to 
place him beside Chasles and Poncelet. He disagreed with 
Fresnel in holding that the vibrations of plane-polarised 
light are parallel to the plane of polarisation, and Fresnel 
proved right. This does not, however, take from the high 
degree of value possessed by McCullagh's geometrical 
papers and by his able attempts to construct a dynamical 
theory of the luminiferous ether. Sir Joseph Larmor 
illuminatingly traces the modern vortex theory beyond Mac- 
quorn Rankine to McCullagh. Sir Joseph Larmor thinks 
that in his Essay towards a Dynamical Theory of Crystalline 
Reflexion and Refraction* McCullagh " arrived at a type 
of elasticity (of the ether) which was wholly rotational, . . . 
somewhat after the manner that a spinning flywheel resists 
any angular deflection of its axis." f Sir Joseph Larmor 
proceeds to point out that " Rankine, never timid in his 
speculations, expounded McCullagh's analytical scheme 
soundly and clearly, in full contrast with the elastic proper- 
ties of matter, as representing a uniform medium or plenum 
endowed with ordinary inertia, but with elasticity of purely 
rotational type. 35 $ However, " up to the period of Lord 
Kelvin's vortex atoms . . . the earlier theories . . . could 
only have been hypothetical speculations/' McCullagh's 
extant papers remained but very imperfectly known. He 
died by his own hand in a fit of temporary insanity, induced 
by his devotion to science. Careful search was made of 
his manuscripts for his physical and geometrical investiga- 
tions, which it is well known he had ready for publication, 
but no trace of them could be found. 

William James Macquorn Rankine (1820 1872) was a 
civil engineer who spent his leisure in a series of researches 
on molecular physics. Rankine the Scots, Clausius the 

* Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, 1839. 
t Sir J. Larmor, Aether and Matter, 1900, p. 26. 
t Ibid., p. 77. Cf. p. 73- 
Ibid., p. 25, note. 


German, and Lord Kelvin the Ulsterman were the three 
who realised profoundly the implications of Carnot's Puis- 
sance Motrice du Feu, a tract that Lord Kelvin had sought 
for as ardently as Green's tract. Rankine, Clausius, and 
Kelvin are the three founders of theoretical thermo- 
dynamics. From 1850 onwards Rankine put forward his 
theory of molecular vortices, " which assumes that each 
atom of matter consists of a nucleus or central point enve- 
loped by an elastic atmosphere." * Clerk-Maxwell thought 
in 1878 that "whatever he [i.e. Rankine] imagined about 
molecular vortices was so clearly imaged in his mind's eye 
that he, as a practical engineer, could see how it would work. 
However intricate, therefore, the machinery might be which 
he imagined to exist in the minute parts of bodies, there 
was no danger of his going on to explain natural phenomena 
by any mode of action of this machinery which was not 
consistent with the general laws of mechanism. Hence, 
though the construction and distribution of his vortices may 
seem to us as complicated and arbitrary as the Cartesian 
system, his final deductions are simple, necessary, and con- 
sistent with facts. Certain phenomena were to be explained. 
Rankine set himself to imagine the mechanism by which 
they might be produced. Being an accomplished engineer, 
he succeeded in specifying a particular arrangement of 
mechanism competent to do the work." This procedure 
was exactly in keeping with that of Lord Kelvin, who never 
felt happy till he had reduced his conceptions to a working 
model. Then but not till then he realised that he was 
making progress. With perfect truth, therefore, Clerk- 
Maxwell informs us that " as long as the training of a 
naturalist enables him to trace the action only of particular 
material systems, without giving him the power of dealing 
with the general properties of all such systems, he must 
proceed by the method so often described in histories of 
science he must imagine model after model of hypothetical 
apparatus, till he finds one which will do the required work. 
. . . The theory of molecular vortices was distinguished 
from other theories which attribute motion to bodies ap- 
parently at rest, by the further assumption that this motion 

* W. J. Rankine, Scientific Papers, p. 17. 


is like that of very small vortices, each whirling about its 
own axis." * 

The practical profession to which Macquorn Rankine be- 
longed is enough to show folks that they are not dealing with 
a mere theorist whatever that term of opprobrium may 
mean. Influential he has been at home, but uninfluential 
he has been abroad, especially in Germany. The reason of 
this lack of European fame arises from the circumstance that 
the theories of Clausius occupied so dominating a position 
that they left no room for the ideas of Macquorn Rankine. 

Macquorn Rankine, James Thomson, and William Thom- 
son (Lord Kelvin) gradually came to realise that there was 
a general doctrine of energy, breaking with the older physical 
theories in so doing. Chemistry had become an exact 
science since mathematics had been applied to it. These 
three came to hold that there ought to be a broader inter- 
pretation embracing more than certain restricted groups 
of natural phenomena. Such an interpretation led to 
the Phase Rule of Willard Gibbs of Yale, who proceeded 
in 1874 logically from a few of the general notions we 
possess on the subject of matter and energy. Contem- 
plating actual aggregate of bodies, he found them in the con- 
dition approaching thermodynamic equilibrium on which 
the reduction of the Phase Rule depends. By the way of 
abstract theory, he introduced into physics the so-called 
semi-permeable membrane and the osmotic pressure against 
it, which now plays so fundamental a part in the study, 
and is regarded as a mode of expression of actual reversible 
energy-relations between solutions in nature. He marked 
out the channels of chemistry within which a scheme of 
reactions can proceed by aid of a discussion of the rela- 
tions of co-existing states or phases of the material. With 
insight he considered the phenomena of inter facial films in 
relation to their physical and chemical combination. Wil- 
lard Gibbs published his views in the Transactions of the 
Connecticut Academy, in a memoir of over three hundred 
pages, and they were as much buried there as those of 
Sophus Lie were in his Oslo journal. Clothed in mathe- 
matical form, European chemists were not quite prepared 

* J. Clerk-Maxwell, Nature, 1878; his Scientific Papers, II, p. 662; 
P. G, Tait's memoir of Rankine in the Collected Papers, XXIX. 


for them. Horstmann had done kindred work which re- 
mained long unrecognised.* True, Clerk-Maxwell f divined 
their value, but, like Henri Poincare, of what did he not 
divine the value ? The papers of Willard Gibbs, with this out- 
standing exception, were left severely alone. Helmholtz bare- 
ly heard of them later. Gibbs's colleagues at Yale do not seem 
to have manifested any concern in the conception of " Hetero- 
geneous Equilibrium/' a neglect that always puzzles us. The 
Dutch chemist Roozeboom, after the lapse of years, per- 
ceived the importance of the Phase Rule. He brought the 
abstract relations of Gibbs to the test of the laboratory, 
and subjected to this test they emerged from it triumphantly. 
Willard Gibbs made deductions in the seclusion of his study 
at Yale, and Roozeboom actually found that these 
deductions were true in fact as well as in theory. Wilhelm 
Ostwald collected and translated the memoirs of Gibbs in 
1892,$ and to-day a whole literature has gathered around 
them. Carnot and Clausius, Joule and Kelvin are outstand- 
ing names, but the name of Willard Gibbs stands alongside 

Riemann worked in the same abstract manner as Gibbs. 
He constructs a certain mathematical space, and in the pro- 
cess we see that, so far as mathematical activity itself is 
concerned, there is no reason why this space should be 
dowered with three dimensions, and with three dimensions 
only. But we see more than that. We see that the primary 
notions have nothing peculiarly " spatial " about them. We 
can deduce from them not only certain characteristics of 
space, but certain properties of linear algebraic equations, 
of mixtures of gases of a large number of things, in fact, 
that are not spaces. As for what differentiates space from 
these non-spatial things, our equation tells us nothing. But, 
in this simple region, we find that all the mathematical rela- 
tions we derive admit of obvious geometrical interpretations. 

* W. Ostwald, Allgcmcine Chemie, II, Part II, p. 111 ff. ; G. Helm, 
Energctik, p. 141 ; P. Duhem, Traite de Mccanique Chimique, I, p. 84 ff. 

f In his Theory of Heat. Cf. his paper in the Transactions of the 
Cambridge Philosophical Society, 1876. Cf. A. D. Ritchie, Scientific 
Method, p. 80. 

$ Thermodynamische Studien, von Willard Gibbs. Cf . W. Ostwald, 
Allgemeine Chemie, II, Part II, p. 114; G. Helm, Grundsiige der 
mathcmatischen Chemie, and his Energetik, passim. 


And by defining congruence in a suitable way we can bestow 
metric relations upon this space; we build up an Euclidean 
space. Have we now formulated the properties of " real " 
space? For about two thousand years it was supposed that 
this particular mathematical development had its precise 
analogue in the relations of bodies in the external world, 
that it was a perfectly correct account of the geometrical 
properties of real space. Even the greater assumption was 
made that this particular geometrical development was the 
only one of which man's mind was capable. It is true 
that this assumption had its critics. From Proclus to Gauss 
there were always doubts about the entire necessity of 
Euclidean geometry, even though its descriptive validity 
might be admitted. But with the erection by Boylai and 
Lobatchewski of a self -consistent, non-Euclidean geometry, 
the mind became aware of its own powers. The mind, 
having won this freedom, proceeded to exercise it, and with 
the work of Riemann, a mathematician of almost unequalled 
insight and profundity, a vast new region was opened up 
to it. This new mental adventure, profound, subtle, and 
vigorous as it was, seemed for long to be a mere efflorescence 
of the free intelligence. Like the world of music, it seemed 
a region exhibiting the free activity of the mind when no 
longer bound by the arbitrary conditions of experience. 
That Riemann himself saw a possibility that these researches 
might throw light on the properties of actual space is 
evident from a prophetic remark in his famous " Probevor- 
lesung," Ueber die Hypothesen, welche der Geometric zu 
Grunde liegen, when, after remarking that, if space is a 
continuous manifold, its metrical relations must be sought 
outside it, in " darauf wirkenden bindenden Kraften," and 
concludes by referring this problem to the science of physics. 
This remark excited no response at the time it was made; 
most probably, indeed, it appeared completely unintelligible, 
for a genius as great as Riemann's own was necessary to 
perceive its full significance. The genius at last appeared in 
the person of Einstein,* who has succeeded in identifying 
Riemann's " binding forces " with gravitation. 

* Did Johann Soldner in 1801 anticipate Einstein? If so, he is a 
remarkable instance of a forgotten scientist. 



HUMAN life is the old in the new, the old being in a new 
aspect. History exhibits that union of two opposites, per- 
manence and progress, which is so baffling to the mind. It 
has a permanent identity and sameness because it exhibits 
the same species of being and the same eternal truth in all 
its sections. It also presents a constant variety and change, 
because it shows this same human nature and this same 
common variety in new forms. This co-inherence and this 
co-working of the two factors, of the old and the new, of 
the conservatism and the progress, is the very essence of 
history. It is difficult to seize and hold both conceptions 
at one and the same time, as the constant controversies of 
scientists show. It is easy and it is very natural to 
separate past discoveries from present, and to make a choice 
of the one or the other as the key to all new ideas and 
the foundation of their application to practical life and 
action. It is simpler to say that the scientist is concerned 
wholly with the present or that he is wholly concerned with 
the past. The extremists on both sides have a much easier 
task than one who occupies the central position between 
them. For a simple idea is much easier to define and 
manage than a complex one; but it is neither so fertile nor 
so completely true. 

Turn to Bacon's New Atlantis, and there we find its 
author protesting against the mistaken use of imagination 
and authority in science, root causes of the limitations of 
scientists. " There is not/' we read in Bacon's grave 
language, " and there never will be an end or limit to this ; 
one catches at one thing, another at another; each has his 
favourite fancy; pure and open light there is none; every 
one philosophies out of the cells of his own imagination, 



as out of Plato's cave; the higher wits with more acuteness 
and felicity, the duller, less happily but with equal per- 
tinacity." Are these words one whit less true in 1925 than 
they were in 1625? Yes, they are not nearly so true, and 
for that we are grateful. If there, however, be any truth 
in the preceding nine chapters we have written, notably the 
ninth one, then it is still lamentably obvious that presupposi- 
tions stand in the way of that greater scientific progress 
we all desire. Aristotle is always in Bacon's mind when 
he protests against the easy assent to authority and against 
the willingness of most men to receive, without discussion, 
symmetrical and agreeable yet fictitious theories. These 
he brands with the name of the Idols of the Theatre. 

In his Novum Organum, Bacon investigates the internal 
impediments to knowledge, those inherent in the human 
mind itself. Thence he proceeds to analyse them closely. 
The mind, so it seems to him, instead of being a perfect 
mirror to reflect the truth, distorts everything that it 
reflects by its unevenness. " I do find," we see, " there- 
fore in this enchanted glass four Idols, or false appear- 
ances of several and distinct sorts, every sort comprehending 
many subdivisions : the first sort I call Idols of the Nation 
or Tribe; the second, Idols of the Palace (or Market-place) ; 
the third, Idols of the Cave; and the fourth, Idols of the 

" Plus qa change, plus c'est la meme chose," such is the sad 
saying that comes into our head. Baconian phraseology 
we no longer employ, but the idea underlying it is still 
present with us. Shelley sings splendidly: 


And science dawn though late upon the earth ; 
Peace cheers the mind, health renovates the frame; 
Disease and pleasure cease to mingle here, 
Reason and passion cease to combat there, 
Whilst mind unfettered o'er the earth extends 
Its all-subduing energies, and wields 
The sceptre of a vast dominion there. 

The serious factor, disturbing the truth of these lines, is 
that the mind of the scientist is very far from an unfettered 
condition. In his Souvenirs d'Enfance et de Jeunesse, one 
of the most fascinating of all his books, Renan tells us how 
he felt drawn to Treguier, that sombre old town, " ecrasee 


par sa cathedrale/' which gave him his " indestructible pli." 
"On y nageait en plein reve, dans'im atmosphere aussi 
mythologique au moins que celle de Benares ou de Jagat- 
nata. ... Je n'etais a Taise que dans la compagnie des 
morts, pres de ces chevaliers, de ces nobles dames, dormant 
d'un sommeil calme avec leur levrette a leurs pieds et tin 
grand flambeau de pierre a la main." How many scientists 
have their Treguier in the shape of some hypothesis, some 
Idol of the Cave, giving them an " indestructible pli " ? This 
" indestructible pli " has been the curse of science in the past, 
and the present has not altogether shaken it off its shoulders. 
Is it possible, for example, that Mr. Bateson is so pre- 
occupied with the study of Mendelism as to be blind to other 
laws ? Is it possible, to take another example, that De Vries 
is so preoccupied with Mutationism as to be blind to 
other laws? The obsession of a hypothesis turns to the 
possession of a mind, taking it into complete captivity. Each 
of us has his Treguier, and unfortunately we are not always 
aware of the hold that such a sombre mental dwelling- 
place has over us. 

Sir William Osier once upon a time hinted that a man 
was too old, mentally speaking, at forty. After that age 
he seemed to contemplate the lethal chamber for the scientist. 
There is considerable truth in his contention. For after 
forty or (say) fifty the scientific mind loses much of its 
elasticity, becoming too cautious and too conservative and 
too seldom brilliant and too seldom daring. In history a 
Lord Bryce and a Sir Adolphus Ward become younger men 
as their weight of years increases. How many Lord Bryces 
or Sir Adolphus Wards are there in science? These two 
historians proved receptive of new opinions to the very last, 
and this is the desideratum for the man of science who is 
going to grasp fresh truth so long as he lives. The serious 
difficulty for him is that so much of his labours is con- 
cerned with details. Immersed in these details, he tends 
to become like Bunyan's man with the muck-rake. He was 
busy with the filth, and never raised his eyes to gaze at 
the vision over his head. Similarly the scientist is often so 
busied with petty facts that he cannot see the wood for the 
trees. The myopic offender has little to say for himself. 
If a man is content with the view "one step enough for 


me," he is lost. He must of course take one step at a 
time, but he must also be prepared to gaze at the distant 
scene. Must he labour intensively? Of course he must. 
Must he labour extensively? Of course he must. The long 
view and the short view are equally essential, but in com- 
bination, not in an abstract and false antithesis. It is 
well to lift our eyes to the sunlit range; but we shall reach 
it only by taking heed to our footsteps in the shadowy plain. 
The command to see things sub specie alternitatis is no com- 
mand to close the eyes to things temporal. On the contrary, 
it is a command to see them steadily and whole in their right 
perspective. The long view proves indeed to be no separate 
act of distant vision, but a lamp to our scientific path in a 
workaday world. 

One of Mr. Brooke's good sayings in Daniel Deronda is, 
" I want that sort of thing not ideas, you know, but a way 
of putting them." The way of putting them is vital to 
the man who wants to make a seminal discovery. With 
Candide " cultivons notre jardin," but at all costs let us oc- 
casionally look around all of it. In our plot we may, if 
we please, say with Marshal MacMahon, "J'y suis et j'y 
reste." If we are content so to say, we shall in science meet 
our Sedan. Sir Richard Owen was uncrowned king of one 
department of the scientific world in England to the year 
1858. About then he ceased to grow as he had been growing, 
with the outcome that where he was he remained, and in 
so remaining he lost his crown. Similarly Sir Roderick 
Murchison lost his crown which he had worn with so much 
honour for so many years. Sir Richard Owen and Sir 
Roderick Murchison are gone from our midst. Have they 
left no successors ? Are there scientists at this moment who 
are cast in a mental mould which they are incapable of 
bursting? Treguier maintained its fascination over Renan 
to the close of his life. Treguierism, if we may coin a 
word, is not confined to an extraordinarily graceful French 
writer. There are scientists who profess the faith of 
Treguierism quite unconsciously. For there are depart- 
ments in their world afflicted with crude heresy and with 
withered orthodoxy. As the years of life advance very few 
of the members of these departments escape that conservatism 
and distrust of new ideas that mark the veteran thinker. 


If anyone takes the trouble and the exquisite pleasure 
he will reap will be his reward to read the biography of 
Henry Sidgwick, he will find a man close to our ideal 
thinker. Every sentence of his writing illustrates the 
familiar slowness and cautiousness in method combined with 
a sincerity of spirit so constant and so intense that the heart 
of it may almost be heard throbbing as the words are read. 
Characteristic of Sidgwick, it is also, we like to think, the 
very quality which made him so typically English a thinker. 
Our love of truth is not intellectual) but moral; the virtue 
of the gentleman rather than that of the man of science. 
The typical Englishman among our men of letters is Samuel 
Johnson. But Johnson is not the typical English thinker, 
because he was not primarily a thinker at all. For the 
thinker all questions were open. For Johnson, however, 
many questions the wisdom of the English constitution, 
for instance, the wickedness of the Whigs were closed. 
" Quieta non movere," the policy of not questioning the actual 
system of things but making it somehow workable, may be 
the wisest for the majority of men. But it cannot be the 
method of the thinker or inquirer. And it was not the 
method of those who are most typical of English thought, 
especially Joseph Butler, the most typical of all. No one 
was so like Butler in the nineteenth century as Henry Sidg- 
wick. There is of course more play of the intellect in 
Sidgwick a play which sometimes goes so far as real 
humour and there is far less of that sorrowful earnest- 
ness as of a prophet calling to a perverse generation which 
is so frequent a note in Butler. But there is the same 
visible and audible sincerity, the same resolute and per- 
sistent will to give its fair weight to every objection and 
never to say one syllable more than the truth allows. Such 
a spirit in science would change the tone and temper of the 
twentieth century, turning it into a brotherhood of men 
striving for the whole truth and turning it aside from 
making this brotherhood into the sheerest of rivalry. The 
common aims and the common interests of all scientists, 
whatever their nationality, ought to bind them into a unity. 
The tale of the nineteenth century from the days of Edward 
Jenner onwards is that it has given them diversity instead 
of this vaunted unity. 


T. H. Huxley was not wont to speak evil of science, and 
his witness is not accordingly prejudiced against it. Some- 
times he is afraid of the specialists and sometimes he is 
afraid of their jealousies. In memorable words he dwells 
on the former danger : " We are in the case of Tarpeia, who 
opened the gates of the Roman citadel to the Sabines and 
was crushed by the weight of the reward bestowed upon her. 
It has become impossible for any man to keep pace with the 
progress of the whole of any important branch of science. 
It looks as if the scientific, like other revolutions, meant to 
devour its own children; as if the growth of science tended 
to overwhelm its votaries; as if the man of science of the 
future were condemned to diminish into a narrow specialist 
as time goes on. It appears to me that the only defence 
against this tendency to the degeneration of scientific workers 
lies in the organisation and extension of scientific education 
in such a manner as to secure breadth of culture without 
superficiality; and, on the other hand, depth and precision 
of knowledge without narrowness." The dangers he feared 
in his day are of course enormously greater in ours, and 
his remedy is one that we cannot apply. The reason is 
obvious. As science advances, it grows increasingly com- 
plex. The words employed in any particular department 
acquire a specialised meaning. Moreover, fresh words have 
to be coined in order to express brand-new conceptions. Can 
the discoveries of Riemann be put into plain English? Can 
those of Mendel? We feel convinced that if Huxley himself 
were alive to-day, and were to undertake to do for Mr. 
Bateson what he did for Darwin, he would miserably fail 
in the attempt. This does not mean for a single second 
that Mr. Bateson's writing is so much below the level of 
Darwin's. It does mean that Mr. Bateson is working with 
more complex material. In point of fact, he has to face 
all the accumulations of knowledge since 1859. The plan, 
then, Huxley suggested is plainly an unmanageable one. 

Huxley stood in dread of the rivalries existing among men 
of science. Obviously this comes out more clearly in the 
early part of his career than in the later part. For in the 
early part he was making his way, and therefore felt the 
weight of opposition on the part of his rivals. In the later 
part he had made his way, and therefore could bear opposi- 


tion down. On March 5, 1852, he had finished a piece of 
work on the morphology of the cephalous mollusca, and here 
is what he writes: 

" I told you I was very busy, and I must tell you what 
I am about and you will believe me. I have just finished 
a Memoir for the Royal Society, which has taken me a world 
of time, thought, and reading, and is, perhaps, the best 
thing I have done yet. It will not be read till May, and 
I do not know whether they will print it or not afterwards; 
that will require care and a little manoeuvring on my part. 
You have no notion of the intrigues that go on in this blessed 
world of science. Science is, I fear, no purer than any other 
region of human activity; though it should be. Merit alone 
is very little good ; it must be backed by tact and knowledge 
of the world to do very much. 

" For instance, I know that the paper I have just sent in is 
very original and of some importance, and I am equally 
sure that if it is referred to the judgment of my ' particular f 
friend that it will not be published. He won't be able 
to say a word against it, but he will pooh-pooh it to a dead 

" You will ask with some wonderment, Why? Because for 

the last twenty years has been regarded as the great 

authority on these matters, and has had no one to tread 
on his heels, until at last, I think, he has come to look upon 
the Natural World as his special preserve, and ' no poachers 
allowed.' So I must manoeuvre a little to get my poor 
memoir kept out of his hands. 

" The necessity for these little stratagems utterly disgusts 
me. I would so willingly reverence and trust any man of 
high standing and ability. I am so utterly unable to com- 
prehend this petty greediness. And yet withal you will 
smile at my perversity. I have a certain pleasure in over- 
coming these obstacles, and fighting these folks with their 
own weapons. I do so long to be able to trust men im- 
plicitly. I have such a horror of all this literary petti- 
fogging. I could be so content myself, if the necessity of 
making a position would allow it, to work on anonymously, 

but I see is determined not to let either me or any one 

else rise if he can help it. Let him beware. On my own 
subjects I am his master, and am quite ready to fight half 


a dozen dragons. And although he has a bitter pen, I flatter 
myself that on occasions I can match him in that depart- 
ment also/' * Huxley was only twenty-seven when he 
wrote such a searching criticism of the section of the scientific 
world with which he came into contact. The gravity of 
the last paragraph can be best estimated by the fact that 
there always have been and there always will be young 
men anxious to carve out their careers. Were such stratagems 
necessary in 1852? Are they necessary in 1925? In spite 
of the World War, human nature has not been perceptibly 
modified during the last three score years and ten. 

In August 1876 Lister gave the graduation address when 
the new graduates were capped. In homely verse Sir Douglas 
Maclagan wrote: 

I'm passed, I'm passed, 

And capped at last; 
I'm qualified and free now, 

On pasteboard neat, 

Or brass door-plate, 
To write myself M.B. now. 

Lister seized the occasion to hold out what he considered 
to be Religio Medici. " In investigating nature/ 5 he warned 
the graduates, " you will do well to bear in mind that in 
every question there is the truth, whatever our notions may 
be. This seems, perhaps, a very simple consideration, yet 
it is strange how often it seems to be disregarded. I re- 
member at an early period of my own life showing to a 
man of high reputation as a teacher some matters which 
I happen to have observed. And I was very much struck 
and grieved to find that, while all the facts lay equally clear 
before him, those only which squared with his previous 
theories seemed to affect his organs of vision. Now this, 
gentlemen, is a most pernicious, though too prevalent, frame 
of mind. When I was a little boy I used to imagine that 
prejudice was a thing peculiar to some individuals. But, 
alas ! I have since learned that we all are under its influence, 
and that it is only a question of degree. But let us ever 
contend against it ; and remembering that the glorious truth 
is always present, let us strive patiently and humbly to dis- 
cover it. And considering the weakness of our nature makes 

* L. Huxley, Life and Letters of T. H. Huxley, I, p. 97. 


it often hard for men to recant an error to which they have 
once committed themselves, you will see an additional reason 
against such rash and premature publication." * In 1852 
Huxley found Treguierism in London and in 1876 Lister 
found it in Edinburgh, and it is of course present to-day 
throughout the world of science. English law presumes 
in the world that a man is innocent until found guilty. 
Treguierism presumes in the scientific world that a man is 
found guilty of error until proved innocent. Rudolf Virchow 
( 1821 1902) was not unknown in the arena of controversy. 
Moved by the harm it had done, he wrote in the preface to 
his collected writings in 1861 : " No doubt science cannot 
admit of compromises, and can only bring out the com- 
plete truth. Hence there must be controversy, and the strife 
may be, and sometimes must be, sharp. But must it even 
then be personal? Does it help science to attack the man 
as well as the statement? On the contrary, has not science 
the noble privilege of carrying on its controversies without 
personal quarrels?" Such a privilege ought to be used, 
but has it? 

The attitude of a Joseph Butler or of a Henry Sidgwick 
is the ideal of the scientist just as much as it is the ideal 
of the moral philosopher. Creed and practice, even in the 
domain of science, do not always coincide. 

In an ideal world of science all the members are moved 
by a pure love of truth and there are no such things as envy, 
hatred, and malice. In the actual world there is much love 
of truth. Is it pure? Of course it is not, as the preceding 
chapters amply testify? Are scientists beings who move 
in a world of thought where such human failings as envy, 
hatred, and malice are not so much as mentioned? Of course 
they are not. There is, as Huxley's letter of 1852 reveals, 
much envy on the part of the investigator towards the young 
graduate who brings to him a piece of original work which 
trespasses on his chosen domain. There is, as Lister's 
address in 1876 reveals, deep-seated prejudice. Now of 
course in the world of reason two blacks do not make one 
white. In the world of ordinary life they sometimes do. 
Did not Jowett darkly hint that logic is neither a science nor 

* Sir R. Godlee, Lord Lister, p. 389. 


an art, but is simply a dodge? Not a few graduates prac- 
tically shocking as it is to relate hold a similar view? 
Convince such a man that there have been conflicts in science, 
that there are conflicts in science, and it is not nearly so 
hard to open his eyes to the circumstance that theology is 
not the only domain where such a warfare has been waged. 
Quite frankly, one object in writing this book has been to 
show the scientist from the annals of the past that his domain 
has been and is infected with precisely the same virus that 
has been at work in the world of religion. It is for the 
reader to judge whether we have proved this or not. It 
is part of our thesis, and by it, for the most part, this book 
stands or falls. 

In the world of science new ideas have not in the past 
met with that welcome that a priori we should have thought 
possible. Nor has this lack of friendly greeting been alto- 
gether unmixed with professional jealousies. If we 
take the case of Huxley again, it is simply because his 
biography is one of the fullest with which we are acquainted, 
and the biographer writes it with a frankness which is wholly 
admirable. In 1879 there was a proposal to remove the 
School of Mines from such a crowded part of London as 
Jermyn Street to the dignified seclusion of South Kensington. 
It was a matter that commended itself warmly to Huxley. 
Naturally the alumni of the School by no means saw eye 
to eye with him in this matter. They met at a public 
dinner to which Huxley had been invited. The chairman, 
stirred by the presence of so many friends of the School, 
spoke enthusiastically in favour of the present position of 
the School. The applause was vigorous when, to the sur- 
prise of everyone, Huxley stood up, and signified his protest 
by walking out of the dining-room. Of course he was 
entitled to his opinion, but so too were the alumni. 

In England and Scotland professional jealousies are miti- 
gated by the circumstance that the Crown has the right to 
appoint to some chairs. Is there any subject that gives rise 
to so much feeling as the appointment to a Professorship? 
In different ways we have been connected with the three 
older Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Dublin, and 
one of the sorriest spectacles we know is to observe occasion- 
ally how a School of Science has been seriously hampered 


because one colleague will not work harmoniously with 
another. If we may speak of our own profession for a 
moment for in it such feeling is not altogether unknown 
it is pleasant to note how a newcomer in a diocese is so 
much more warmly received in England than in Ireland. 
No doubt part of this difference arises from the fact that 
the Crown in England, though not in Ireland since 1869, 
possesses the power of nominating men to all the Bishoprics, 
all the Deaneries, and not a few Canonries. It is impossible 
to feel jealousy of the Crown in England. It is possible to 
feel jealousy of the Board making an appointment in Ire- 
land. Of course in England, as in Ireland, Treguierism 
is not wholly unknown. 

The examples we have given of the conflict between 
scientists and science stop with the days of Lister, and the 
reason of this is obvious. It is not that fresh cases of 
conflict do not exist: it is simply that such evidence is not 
available simply because the scientists are still alive. On 
the ground of taste as well as on the ground of lack of 
evidence we do not proceed to the present moment. Recent 
biographies and biographies are essential for our purpose 
reveal the melancholy fact that this conflict persists. In 
1921 the English edition of the Life of Elie Metchnikoff 
appeared and in 1923 Sir Ronald Ross published his 
Memoirs. In 1924 Lord Rayleigh's biography of his great 
father also appeared. 

Madame Metchnikoff wrote a revealing study of her 
husband in which we catch almost as many glimpses of the 
man as we do of the scientist. A devoted lover of music, 
he possessed much knowledge of art and had many friends 
in the art world of Paris. Like so many of the greatest 
discoverers, he was attracted to the field of his life's work 
by a delight in its beauty. His aesthetic sense was gratified 
by the observance and discovery of the phenomena of struc- 
ture and function. Metchnikoff (1845 1 9 1 ^) was a Rus- 
sian zoologist who breathed a serene atmosphere which 
altered the second he changed to pathology. Feeling his 
way to a startling discovery in pathology, he tells us that 
while he was Scientific Director of the bacteriological station 
at Odessa, medical society met with hostility every work 
which issued from the laboratory. Tentatively he issued his 


phagocyte theory, by which he proved that natural history 
could be applied to medicine. This theory he had seen in 
a flash of prophetic insight. But this was an innovation, 
retorted some. Metchnikoff pursued his researches, which 
were to show that recovery and immunity depended on the 
absorption and digestion of living, virulent microbes by 
phagocytes. Emmerich in 1887 attacked the new view 
violently, and even though the discoverer travelled to Munich 
in order to afford a personal explanation, it was unavailing. 
There was peace neither at Odessa nor at Munich. Koch 
lived in Berlin, and he was a discoverer. Surely he would 
listen to his evidence. Accordingly, to Berlin he hastened 
in 1887. Koch " received him coldly. For a long time, 
while examining specimens of the spleen in relapsing fever, 
he refused to recognise in them an example of phagocytosis. 
Though he was obliged to bow to the evidence, he yet re- 
mained unfavourable to the phagocyte theory, and all his 
assistants followed his example. Metchnikoff was much 
surprised and grieved by this hostility towards his ideas, 
notwithstanding that they were based on well-established 
facts." * 

Madame Metchnikoff is of course the only person really 
to know the effects of such marked opposition towards her 
husband's ideas. The outcome of Bacon's Idola could not 
be more marked. " Here," she tells us, " was the realm of 
secular traditions, deeply rooted, and of theories generally 
admitted but resting on no biological basis. Attacks and 
objections against his theories came following each other with 
a rush, only to be compared with the racing clouds of a 
stormy sky or the hurrying waves of a tempestuous sea. 
An epic struggle began for Metchnikoff which was to last 
for twenty-five years, until the moment when the phagocyte 
theory, his child now grown up, was to emerge victoriously. 
To each attack, to each objection, he answered with fresh 
experiments, fresh observations annihilating objections; his 
theory was assuming wider and wider scope, becoming 
more solid and convincing. . . . But only his intimates knew 
how much the struggle cost him in vital force, what sleep- 
less nights, due to continuous cerebral tension, and to the 

* O. Metchnikoff, Life of Elie Metchnikoff 9 p. 133. 


effort to conceive some new and irrefragable experiment, 
what alternations of hope and depression. . . ." * 

Now if Metchnikoff had been the very first to perform 
such experiments, if there had been no Pasteur, no Lister, 
we could better understand such determined opposition. But 
he was by no means a pathological Columbus. The objec- 
tion of the average man to a proposal is, Why, I never 
heard the like of that before! To him such an objection 
is fatal. There were even scientists who replied of course 
in proper terminological exactitude Why, I never heard 
the like of that before. The tragedy is that in the eighties 
a genius like Metchnikoff was forced to spend twenty-five 
years of his precious time in meeting their attacks. The 
years that might have been devoted to the perfecting of his 
toil had to be given to meeting attack after attack. By 
experiments on the rouget of pigs he met the objections of 
Emmerich. By experiments on the anthrax of pigeons he 
met the objections of Baumgarten and his pupils. By ex- 
periments on the anthrax of rats he met the objections of 
Behring, who affirmed that immunity was purchased by the 
bacteriological power of the serum. His attacks were serious, 
for he discovered antitoxins, and this seemed to favour the 
chemical or humoral theory of immunity. According to 
the latter, microbes and their poisons were rendered harmless 
by the chemical properties of the blood serum, properties 
similar to those of disinfecting substances. A series of fresh 
researches was imperative. What part was played by phago- 
cytes? What part was played by antitoxins? The investi- 
gator was at last enabled to draw the required conclusion. 
He ascertained the nature of the narrow link between im- 
munity and the function of the phagocytes which probably 
elaborate the antitoxins as a product of their digestion of 
vaccinal toxins. His Lemons sur la pathologie, published in 
1892, contained conclusions, with the evidence for them, 
that ought to have silenced all opposition. Of course it did 
nothing of the kind. 

Madame Metchnikoff records that "the persistent and 
bitter opposition of physicians to the phagocyte theory 
made a great impression on Metchnikoff, and, while stimu- 
lating his energy in defence of his ideas, it maintained 
* O. Metchnikoff, Life of Elie Metchnikoff, p. 146. 


him in a state of nervous excitement and even depressed 

" He asked himself why this obstinate opposition to a 
doctrine based on well-established facts, easily tested and 
observed throughout the whole animal kingdom? To him, 
a naturalist, it seemed clear and simple and all the more 
admissible that it was confirmed by the generality of its 
application to all living beings. 

" But, he thought, perhaps the real cause of the attitude 
of the contradictors lies in the very fact that medical science 
only concerns itself with the pathological phenomena of higher 
animals, leaving their evolution out of account, as well as 
their starting-point in lower animals whilst it is the very 
simplicity of the latter which allows us to penetrate to the 
origin of the phenomena. 

" Perhaps a general plan of the whole, in the shape of a 
comparative study, embracing the whole animal scale, would 
throw light over the generality of phagocytic phenomena and 
would make their continuity understood through normal and 
pathological biology. He determined to make this effort/' * 

His Lemons sur la pathologic covered the whole ground, 
and, so far as the objectors were concerned, covered 
the whole ground in vain. The attacks made upon Edward 
Jenner at the beginning of the nineteenth century were made 
upon Elie Metchnikoff at the end of the nineteenth century. 
By a curious coincidence the problems at which Jenner and 
Metchnikoff were working were kindred in nature, for Jenner 
was working at the beginnings of Immunology. Pasteur 
and Lister, Koch and Metchnikoff and indeed the whole 
modern therapeutical movement trace their descent 
logically from what a country doctor in Gloucestershire 
initiated. Immunology has made progress, distinct progress. 
In spite of this, however, in 1925 the Medical Research 
Council assures us that not one of the causal organisms of 
the common communicable diseases has been discovered in 
any of our University laboratories. Yet when Elie Metch- 
nikoff presented results, the reception of them was so cold 
that it daunted even his warm heart. With his keen 
imagination, keen vitality, keen persistence, he saw far down 
the corridors of time, new vistas alluring him ever onward. 
* 0. Metchnikoff, Life of Elie Metchnikoff, p. 150. 


His gaze ever was fixed on the far-off hills and on the giant 
peaks of the far-distant and unknown country beyond. Some 
of that unknown country he was happy enough to win, but 
some was hidden by mists raised by men, and 

This high man, with great things to pursue, 
Dies ere he knows it. 

The history of scientific discovery attests the need there 
is for a clearing house for men who are engaged in research. 
For one's labours may be either superfluous or assistance 
for them may be provided. The labours may be super- 
fluous, for one may ascertain through such a clearing house 
that one's idea has been exploited to its limits. Assistance 
for them may be provided when this is not so, for one 
may meet another worker engaged in a kindred task. 
Then there are all the advantages gained through discussion 
with some one who is qualified to afford light and leading. 
The clearing house is not always possible, for the simple 
reason that there may not be another man in a position 
to give help of any kind. We must also remember that 
the discovery may be a welcome one or an unwelcome one. 
It may be a welcome one for which many are clamouring, 
for it will co-ordinate scattered tiny generalisations into 
the whole to which they belong. It may be an unwelcome 
one for which nobody is clamouring, for it may be the 
very first of a set of generalisations which will not be 
sufficiently ripe for the large generalisation for another 
generation. An example will explain what we mean. Dr. 
Banting discovered insulin, and everyone wanted it. Dr. 
Edridge-Green discovered a new theory of colour vision, 
and nobody wanted it. Dr. Banting's discovery of insulin 
was a sort of keyword that completed a cross-word puzzle. 
It completed, co-ordinated, and explained the researches of 
nearly a generation of laboratory workers. Dr. Edridge- 
Green's discovery set out with the destruction of the current 
colour-theory, and the outcome was that he saw his theory 
neglected for twenty years. The supporters of the current 
theory were horrified at the unorthodoxy of the views of 
the discoverer. We never heard the like of that before! 
The United States and Germany paid some heed to his 
view, but the body most difficult to convince was our own 
Royal Society, 


Discoveries appear in learned papers, but there are no 
less than 24,000 of them throughout the world, and more 
than half of them are devoted to the biological sciences. 
Very few libraries in the world contain more than a fraction 
of these publications. In our country an effort is being 
made to group the libraries of provincial universities, and 
to pool borrowing and consulting powers. Geographical 
distances in America put such co-operation out of the 
question. The proposal the Americans make is to start a 
journal of abstracts of the researches that are being actually 
pursued throughout the world. The National Research 
Council of the United States and many of the leading 
American scientific institutions have given a general support 
to the proposal. The Rockefeller Foundation is reported 
to have promised an annual contribution of fifty thousand 
dollars a year for ten years for the editorial expenses. 
On a small scale this plan has been tried. Our Physiological 
Society, for instance, issues a valuable series of abstracts 
of papers dealing with physiological research. The 
Imperial Bureau of Entomology circulates abstracts and 
bibliographies dealing exhaustively with the economic 
side of insect life. Since 1864 the annual volumes of the 
Zoological Record have provided classified lists of zoological 
memoirs, with detailed indexes to their contents. The 
proposal, then, is one that has been tried on a national 
scale, and ought to be tried on a cosmopolitan one. When 
a scientific society has its annual meeting, why, in addition, 
should there not be a list with its secretaries, specifying 
what pieces of original work members are pursuing? We 
feel convinced that such a list would have saved, for example, 
some of the heart-sickness from which a man like Metch- 
nikoff suffered so bitterly. If the clearing house method is 
not always feasible, probably the list is not always feasible. 
Still, for the sake of a Dr. Edridge-Green or a Metch- 
nikoff we should risk it. 

Less than a year ago Sir Ronald Ross * published his 
ielightful " Memoirs/ 1 and they reveal his many-sided nature. 
Mathematicians deplore him as a worker wasted in alien 
researches. Poets have recognised his gifts by electing him 
President of the Poetry Society. His musical talent is 

* He was born in 1857, and happily he is still with us. 


evident when we remember that on the marriage of his 
daughter it was one of his compositions that was selected 
for the wedding march. As child, youth, and man he 
felt obsessed with the idea of undertaking research in mathe- 
matics, of writing great verse, and of composing trans- 
cendental music. Entering the Indian Medical Service he 
became immersed in mathematics, poetry, music and polo. 
" Homo sum ; humani nihil a me alienum puto " this could 
evidently have been taken for his motto. The interest in the 
malaria problem was bound to come, and it did come in 1880. 
Malarial fevers proved the main obstacle in the way of 
the conquest of the Papacy by the Holy Roman Empire. 
Had a Frederick I or a Frederick II possessed a remedy 
for these fevers, how the course of the world's history 
would have been deflected ! They have swept away millions 
until in 1640 the Countess d'El Chinchon, wife of the 
Governor of Peru, introduced Chinchona Bark into Europe. 
In 1700 this remedy was in widespread use. A century 
later men ascertained that a parasite inhabiting the body 
of a water-fowl was also found in the bodies of fish on 
which that type of fowl habitually feeds. May a parasite 
own two sets of hosts in the animal kingdom? This pos- 
sibility became a probability when Sir Patrick Manson 
discovered that the small worm producing that rare disease, 
elephantiasis, is carried by a mosquito in whose body it 
has passed a portion of its existence. In 1878 Laveran, 
a French army surgeon, working at Bone in Algeria with 
a microscope as inadequate as any instrument in Pasteur's 
early laboratory, discovered and described the malarial 
parasite as it appears in the human blood.* He watched 
the small, wriggling bodies, each ensconced in its blood 
corpuscle. Golgi, who continued his work, noted fully the 
budding process in the blood the so-called asexual cycle 
of the malaria parasite.f Ross thought in terms of malaria, 
and wrote in terms of it: 

In this, O Nature, yield, I pray, to^me, 
I pace and pace, and think and think, and take 

The fever' d hands, and note down all I see, 
That some dim distant light may haply break. 

* Sir R. Ross, Memoirs, pp. 40, Q2, IOT, 119-22, 125-6, 128-9, 194. 
t Ibid., pp. 121, 134, i94 339, 39*5-7, 48- 


The painful faces ask, Can we not cure? 

We answer, No, not yet; we seek the laws. 
O God, reveal thro' all this thing obscure 

The unseen, small, but million-murdering cause. 

On leave in London in March 1894, Ross met Dr. (as 
he then was) Patrick Manson.* Curiously enough, Ross 
had at that time formed the conclusion that Laveran's 
result was inaccurate, for he had been unable to repeat it.f 
Manson convinced him that in forming this conclusion he 
was wrong. On a November afternoon in Oxford Street, 
Manson declared, " Do you know, I have formed the theory 
that mosquitoes carry malaria just as they carry filarise? " 

There had been precursors of Darwin from time im- 
memorial, and there had been precursors of Ross, but it 
was reserved for him, just as it was reserved for Darwin, 
to furnish the complete proofs of the accuracy of the view 
propounded by Manson. Any able man can enunciate views. 
It takes a Darwin or a Ross to demonstrate their truth, 
and to spend, if necessary, a lifetime of hard work in 
the task of demonstration. Thanks to Ross the Panama 
Canal has been built and the tropics have become habitable 
by the white race. Millions of lives have been saved, and 
their saviour is Sir Ronald Ross. 

The story of the discovery made by Ross on the after- 
noon of August 20, 1885, is as pathetic as any in the 
career of Elie Metchnikoff. Unsupported by his profession, 
subject to constant interruption, raised to the heavens as 
he seemed to be on the brink of success, dashed down to 
the depths as he seemed to be on the brink of failure, yet 
he persisted grimly in his self-chosen labours. As he notes, 
" I was up against a very difficult problem indeed an 
equation containing two unknown quantities." There is 
romance in the way the essential discovery was at last 
made. Mosquito after mosquito had been examined that 
day with negative results, and about one o'clock Ross started 
the dissection of an anopheles mosquito. Nothing was 
found on examination, and only the stomach tissue remained 
to be looked through. His eyesight felt already strained, 
and it seemed hardly worth while to continue the search. 

* Sir R. Ross, Memoirs, pp. 122, 124, 127-9, I3ii ^34-5, 155-6, 187-98, 
207, 233-4, 238, 245, 287-8, 305-8, 318, 33I-4- 
t Ibid., p. 129. 


Methodically, however, he persisted, and, to his delight, 
discovered the malaria parasite living and growing in the 
mosquito. If admirers of Jenner deemed May 14, 1796, 
a red-letter day in the annals of mankind, we, as admirers 
of Ross, deem August 20, 1885, another red-letter day.* 
Ross records his awe: 

This day relenting God 

Hath placed within my hand 
A wondrous thing; and God 

Be praised. At His command 

Seeking his secret deeds 

With tears and toiling breath, 
I find thy cunning seeds, 

O million-murdering Death I 

I know this little thing 

A myriad men will save. 
O Death, where is thy sting? 

Thy victory, O grave? 

During all the time Ross had been pursuing his researches 
we find that the authorities of the Indian Medical Service, 
the India Office, and the Colonial Office hampered him 
negatively and positively, f In all these he found Tre- 
guierism absolutely rampant. Negatively, these bodies 
offered him no encouragement during an arduous piece of 
work of the last possible importance to all three depart- 
ments. Positively, they actually and it seems deliberately 
placed many obstacles in the path of one who found suffi- 
cient natural obstacles in tracking the devious ways of the 
anopheles mosquito without requiring any artificial obstacles. { 
In disgust in 1899 he resigned his commission in the Indian 
Medical Service. In fact, there was more assistance ten- 
dered to Jenner at the end of the eighteenth century than 
was tendered to Ross at the end of the nineteenth. His 
Memoirs describe with justifiable bitterness and scorn the 
scandalous attempts made to pirate his work by such Italians 
as Bastianelli, Bignami,|| and Grassi,fl and others, and the 

* Sir R. Ross, Memoirs, pp. 223-6. 

t Ibid., pp. 201-2, 240-3, 315, 317, 355-6, and indeed passim. Cf. also 

PP. 367, 391, 412-13. 

J Ibid., pp. 93, 2H-I2, etc. 

Ibid., pp. 335, 348-52, 392, 398, 400-10, 480-1. 

II Ibid. f pp. 121, 127, 194-6, 207, 288, 335-54, 366, 392, 398, 400-10, 
480-1, 485. 

H Ibid., pp. 122, 194, 263, 287-8, 33S-52, 366, 382, 398-412, 414, 440. 


scientific scepticism he met with in various quarters. In 
connection with these grievous injustices he was asked on 
one occasion which he preferred, the thieves who stole his 
pearls or the swine that trod them in the mire. His retort 
was that at least the thieves knew their value, for it required 
some audacity to be a pirate, whereas it required none to 
be a pseudo-scientific sceptic.* 

Lord Kelvin was a genius who might have found the 
clearing-house system or the list useful. For it is perfectly 
plain, if we take one section of his vast work, that Macquorn 
Rankine and Clausius, Joule and Helmholtz not to mention 
others were all working pretty simultaneously at aspects 
of the problem of the conservation of energy. Instead of 
a clearing house or a list, Lord Kelvin continued all his 
life to consult Sir Gabriel Stokes, probably the man whose 
mind was in closest sympathy with his own. Be that as it 
may, the moment a matter seized hold of him, his very first 
thought was what Stokes would think of it. " I must 
consult Stokes," was a remark often to be heard on his lips. 
Examples of genuine scientific co-operation are few. There 
is a couple of such well-known cases as Liebig and Wohler, 
of Liveing and Sir J. Dewar. Examples of genuine scientific 
consultation are many, and among the most conspicuous of 
these is that of Kelvin and Stokes. When the latter died, 
Kelvin attended the funeral at Cambridge. When he was 
leaving the grave, Kelvin remarked to a friend, " Now 
that Stokes is gone, I shall never return to Cambridge." 

The gigantic genius of Lord Kelvin was generally re- 
cognised in his own day. That singularly competent 
authority, Sir Joseph Larmor, attended the funeral of this 
genius in Westminster Abbey. As he walked away from 
the Abbey in company with Sir Archibald Geikie to the 
rooms of the Royal Society, Sir Joseph made a remark 
which graphically brings before us the greatness of Lord 
Kelvin. " Conceive," he held, " a perfectly level line drawn 
from the summit of Newton's genius across all the inter- 
vening generations ; probably the only man who has reached 
it in these two centuries has been Kelvin." f 

* Sir R. Ross, Memoirs, pp. 430, 468, 475. 

tSir A. Geikie, A Long Life's Work, p. 350. Sir Joseph Larmor 
tells me that this remark is apocryphal. 


In pure mathematics Lord Kelvin was excelled by others, 
but as Helmholtz said of him, the power of translating 
real facts into mathematical equations, and vice versa, is 
far more rare than that of finding a solution of a given 
mathematical problem, and it was in this direction that he 
displayed his striking qualities. Another aspect of the same 
quality was the extraordinary combination he showed of 
the theoretical with the practical. He was not an Ulster- 
man for nothing. He once remarked that there could be 
no greater mistake than to look superciliously on the prac- 
tical applications which were the life and soul of science. 
So it was that he did not think it beneath him to turn 
from the most abstruse inquiries into the constitution of 
matter or the doctrine of energy to the invention of a 
common water tap. 

The most fruitful period of his life was the first ten 
years he was Professor at Glasgow University. His fertility 
from 1845 to 1856 remains unparalleled. Then, inter alia, 
he conducted his investigations in thermodynamics with its 
reconciliation of the ideas of Carnot with the experimental 
results of Joule. Then he enunciated the principle that in 
the material world there is a universal tendency to the 
dissipation of mechanical energy, and that any restoration 
of mechanical energy, without more than an equivalent of 
dissipation, is impossible in inanimate material processes 
and is probably never effected by means of organised matter, 
whether animal or vegetable. Of this principle Sir Joseph 
Larmor has remarked that the advance brought about by 
its mere enunciation is to be measured by its very inevitable- 
ness to our present modes of thought, and that it is more 
difficult now to recognise the limitations that must have 
belonged to the time when its formulation gave rise to such 
surprise and wonder. Lord Kelvin proceeded to the deduc- 
tion that within a finite period of time past the earth must 
have been unfit for the habitation of man as at present 
constituted, and within a finite period of time to come must 
again become so, unless operations have been or are to be 
performed that are impossible under the laws to which the 
known operations going on at present in the material world 
are subject. 

On what subject has there been more nonsense written 


and spoken than on the end of the world? From classical 
times, from the days of the millenarians to those of the 
World War is it not always appearing under one guise or 
another? Geologists intervened in the discussion, and some 
talked sense and some nonsense. Even the biologists why 
it does not quite transpire entered into it. Huxley taught 
men political philosophy and he taught them political 
economy. In 1869 he spoke out. " The critical examina- 
tion/' he held, " of the grounds upon which the grave 
charge of opposition to the principles of Natural Philosophy 
has been brought against us rather shows that we have 
exercised a wise discrimination in declining to meddle with 
our foundations at the bidding of the first passer-by who 
fancies our house is not so well built as it might be." * 
Is this a scarcely veiled hint that outsiders should not 
meddle in a matter that was no concern of theirs? Is it, 
in fact, a form of Treguierism? So Lord Kelvin took it, 
for a few weeks later at Glasgow he pertinently inquired : 
" 1 cannot pass from Professor Huxley's last sentence with- 
out asking, ' Who are the occupants of " our house/' and who 
is the " passer-by " ? 5 Is not geology a branch of physical 
science ? Are investigations, experimental and mathematical, 
of underground temperature not to be regarded as an integral 
part of geology? Are suggestions from astronomy and 
thermodynamics, when adverse to a tendency in geological 
speculation recently become extensively popular through the 
brilliance and the eloquence of its chief promoters, to be 
treated by geologists as an invitation to meddle with their 
foundations which a 'wise discrimination' declines? "f 

An eminent scientist, Silvanus P. Thompson, wrote an 
able biography of Lord Kelvin which is curiously supple- 
mented by the biography Lord Rayleigh published last year 
of his father. Thompson reveals the limitlessness of Lord 
Kelvin's intellect, though occasionally he hints at the limita- 
tions, a matter on which Lord Rayleigh has just told us 
a great deal. Kelvin neither altogether accepted Clerk-Max- 
well's electro-magnetic theory of light nor the notion of 
" displacement currents " on which that theory is based. J 

* Quarterly Journal of the Geological Survey of London, 1869, XXV, 
part I, pp. xxxviii to in. 

t S. P. Thompson, Life of Lord Kelvin, I, p. 549. 
J Ibid., II, p. 879. 


Of course we all know the triumphant investigations that 
have been conducted by such pupils and disciples of Clerk- 
Maxwell as Lord Rayleigh and Sir J. J. Thomson, Sir 
Oliver Lodge and Sir Richard T. Glazebrook, G. F. Fitz- 
Gerald and John Hopkinson, J. H. Poynting and Oliver 
Heaviside. In 1896 Lord Kelvin wrote to Colonel (as 
he then was) Baden-Powell, " I have not the smallest mole- 
cule of faith in aerial navigation other than ballooning, or 
of the expectation of good results from any of the trials 
we hear of." * Of metaphysics he entertained as hearty a 
hatred as Boltzmann himself. f In 1871 he regarded war 
here he was in keeping with true Victorian spirit as a 
relic of barbarism probably destined to become as obsolete 
as duelling.^ 

Like Cayley, he would never allow the use in physics of 
the method of quaternions. Nor was this a matter of old 
age. For in 1845, when only in his twenty-first year, he 
met Sir William Hamilton and point-blank refused to enter- 
tain this ingenious method of symbolic analysis. His colla- 
borator, P. G. Tait, was in this respect more open-minded. 
Lord Kelvin, despite the arguments of Tait, refused to 
employ quaternion notation or quaternion methods. To 
his dying day he would have none of these things, and 
in process of time grew to hate the name of vector. He 
waged a thirty-eight years' warfare with Tait on this matter, 
refusing to admit quaternions into the Natural Philosophy 
they both wrote. " When confronted with a new factor in 
discovery, Thomson's attitude of mind," points out his 
biographer, || " varied according to the circumstances of the 
case. Thus when Kerr in 1876 announced his discovery 
of electro-optic stress, Thomson was instantly and almost 
explosively excited; he had predicted this very effect thirty 
years before, and had written of it to Faraday, who had 
himself looked for it in vain at a still earlier date. When 
Rontgen's discovery of the X-rays was announced at the 
end of 1895, Thomson was entirely sceptical, and regarded 
the announcement as a hoax. On the other hand, when 

* S. P. Thompson, Life of Lord Kelvin, II, p. 1122. 

t Ibid., II, pp. 1 122, 1124. 

t Ibid., II, p. 1128. 

Ibid., I, pp. 450, 452; II. pp. H37-8. 

II Ibid., II, p. 1125. 


Crookes first showed him the radiometer, one evening in 
1874, he sat down watching it in perfect silence for nearly 
an hour, gazing at it, shading the light from it at intervals 
with his hand, or moving it towards the lamp or from it, 
and thinking thinking. Not even in 1906 was he satisfied 
that the true theory of the radiometer had ever been given. " 

Treguierism afflicted Lord Kelvin to a marked extent, as 
Lord Rayleigh reveals in a number of instances. He was 
anxious to secure recognition for the grossly neglected work 
of Willard Gibbs of Yale. His Phase Rule, with all its 
implications, concerned many of the ways in which the 
different sciences intersect, e.g. biology and chemistry. The 
chemical members of the Council of the Royal Society 
deemed it " not chemistry. " * Rayleigh insisted that the 
title of Gibbs's great paper, The Equilibrium of Hetero- 
geneous Substances, would serve as a first-rate definition of 
that subject. On September 13, 1891, Lord Kelvin objected : 
" I feel very doubtful as to the merits of Willard Gibbs's 
applications of the Second Law of Thermodynamics re- 
ferred to by J. J. Thomson. Do you attribute merit to 
them? " f On February 9, 1892, he wrote, " I find no light 
or leading for either chemistry or thermodynamics in Willard 
Gibbs." f To-day Willard Gibbs, his mark, is written over 
chemical lectures and even chemical text-books. 

In 1895 the labours of van't Hoff and Arrhenius had 
brought before the scientific world their theory of electrolytic 
dissociation which, in spite of opposition, has now won 
general assent. Lord Kelvin had learnt something of it 
from friends, and was fierce in his denunciation of it. Lord 
Rayleigh lent him a book in which the views of van't Hoff 
and Arrhenius were duly set forth. Lord Kelvin proved 
as dour as any Scots to convince. Meeting with an incon- 
clusive argument, he felt exultant. " I remember meeting 
Kelvin," writes the present Lord Rayleigh,$ " in the con- 
servatory as he was leaving the book-room, and I was going 
to it. He waved the book in triumph as he crucified the 
fallacy. ' He is not equal to pdv,' he said triumphantly, 
repeating the words several times with emphatic relish. 

* Lord Rayleigh, Life of Lord Rayleigh, p. 172. 
t Ibid., p. 172. 
$ /Mrf., p. 238. 


' It is Meyer's old mistake of 1842, and here we have it 
again in 1893.' 

" However, his indignation abated somewhat as he read 
further. ' He will think before long that he discovered it 
himself/ Rayleigh [the father] remarked, after his visit 

was over." 

W. Wien developed his " displacement law " of black- 
body radiation in a fashion that has won approval. Lord 
Rayleigh was convinced, but Lord Kelvin was not. When 
he met with the conception of work done by a piston moving 
against radiation pressure, he stigmatised it as " Thermo- 
dynamics gone mad ! " * At first he proved every whit as 
antagonistic to the new views of gaseous conduction de- 
veloped by Sir J. J. Thomson, Sir E. Rutherford, and Sir A. 
Schuster. Lord Rayleigh happened to mention something 
about the carriers of the electric charge, a term employed 
by one of these writers. " Why," Lord Kelvin burst out, 
"do you call them carriers?" The new name signified 
the new idea and it was abhorrent to him.* 

" Kelvin," such is the conclusion of Lord Rayleigh, " was 
equally eager in discussion of theoretical views, but in his 
mature years at any rate he was by no means laudatory 
about the theories of other workers as he was about their 
experimental results. Indeed to those who did not realise 
the tremendous record of achievement that stood to his 
name, his way of discussing new views might well have 
seemed not a little perverse. As Rayleigh often said, ' He 
is a most interesting personality, not only for his powers, 
but also for his limitations/ f Kelvin's scientific dis- 
cussions or arguments with my father were often on abstruse 
questions, and I cannot now attempt to reproduce any of 
them from recollection. But it was as good as a play to 
hear them. ' I cannot see the shadow of an argument in 
that/ Kelvin would say. ' Well/ Rayleigh would reply, ' I 
regard it as rigorously proved: and I think you will be 
convinced if you will only read it as I have set it out here 
in half a page of print/ But it was not easy to get him 
to do this. He would take it up, but the first line or two 

* S. P. Thompson, Life of Lord Kelvin, p. 238. 
t Lord Rayleigh, Life of Lord Rayleigh, p. 238. 


would send him off on some train of thought of his own, 
and his eye would wander from the printed page." * 

The idola of Bacon and the Treguierism of Renan are 
plainly written on the course of their thought. Renan 
realised it, but did Kelvin? Rayleigh realised it in the case 
of Kelvin, but apparently Kelvin did not recognise it in 
his own case. The limitations of Kelvin are only tolerably 
plain in the biography Silvanus P. Thompson wrote. It 
was reserved for Lord Rayleigh to dot the i's and stroke 
the t's of Silvanus P. Thompson. And we cannot help 
shrewdly suspecting that in not a few other cases, did we 
but possess another writer to dot the i's and stroke the 
t's of the biographer, we should have before us the limita- 
tions of the man depicted in the Life and Letters of , 

be the scientist whom he may. 

Now the causes of the idola of Bacon and the Treguierism 
of Renan actively at work in the mind of Lord Kelvin are 
by no means due to his rigid conceptions of the many 
meanings how elusive some of them are! given to that 
phrase, the reign of law. He well knew no one better 
in what a wide sense one must use that other phrase 
.how elusive some of its meanings are! natural law. To 
listen to some scientists a law of nature is as rigid as the com- 
mand of General Martinet of the French Army used to 
be. " Go," said the centurion to his soldier servant and 
he went. " Come " and he came. Such used to be the 
idea of a natural law. Lord Kelvin knew infinitely better 
than all this. In the controversy with Huxley on the right 
of the physicist to criticise the conclusions of the geologist, 
he takes occasion to remark, " I have not presented definite 
results. I have amply indicated how * loose ' my data are ; 
and I have taken care to make my results looser." f There 
is a haze around all seminal thought, and there is a haze 
around all scientific law. C. J. Vaughan (1816 1897), the 
Master of the Temple, was once asked the question, What 
is the main difference between the conceptions of Westcott 
and Lightfoot? He pondered, and then gave his answer. 
The difference he found to lie in the circumstance that 
when Lightfoot got hold of an idea he wanted to make 

* Lord Rayleigh, Life of Lord Rayleigh, p. 243. 
t S. P. Thompson, Life of Lord Kelvin, p. 549. 


it as definite as ever he could, whereas when Westcott got 
hold of an idea he wanted to make it as indefinite as ever 
he could. Lord Kelvin amply realised the wisdom lying 
behind this remark of Vaughan's. Illuminating conceptions 
cannot he tied up into neat parcels carefully corded. What 
at bottom is a law of science but such a conception generalised 
as skilfully as its discoverer can make it? * An American 
scientist to-day of the standing of Mr. H. F. Osborn can 
seriously ask the question, Are the biological laws of life, 
like the ultimate laws of physics, beyond analysis? When 
we have traced all vital functions to the primordial living 
ovum, and " Nature's self untwisted lies into its first con- 
sistencies," the untwisted knot is as hard to be explained as 
ever. Is it as Du Bois Reymond held, Ignoramus et Ignora- 
bimus? Still, as Poincare remarked, thought is the light- 
ning flash between two infinities of blackness. But it is 
the lightning which matters. 

A scientific theory exists to assert a correspondence between 
the laws of our mind and the happenings of the external 
world. Man can recognise no other order except the order 
to which he himself is obedient; a universe which did not 
obey this order would be an irrational universe and for ever 
inaccessible to the methods of science. The extraordinary 
success of scientific explanations in accounting for observed 
phenomena sometimes seems very surprising; that mathe- 
matics, in particular, should be applicable to material hap- 
penings seems little short of the incredible. For mathe- 
matics is the fruit of a free activity of the mind ; the mind 
is here conditioned only by its own laws. The empirical 
origins of mathematics were mere points of departure; 
henceforth the mind proceeds under its own momentum, 
with no further reference to experience; the exciting cause 
is really as insignificant as were the notes of the yellow- 
hammer which gave birth to Beethoven's C minor Symphony. 

Thinkers like the great German physicist Boltzmann feel 
the difficulty in bringing the apparently dissociated activity 
of the department of mathematics into contact with the 
happenings of the external world, and in his absorbing piece 
of work on Space Time Matter, H. Weyl unquestion- 

* Cf . the remarkable paper of Dr. F. R. Tennant on " The Reign of 
Law," The Modern Churchman, September 1924, pp. 305-22. 


ably experiences the same trouble. Boltzmann exhibits dis- 
trust of many of the workings of the mind. Science, in 
his opinion, though very often abstract, possessed a certain 
validity, since it issues in the prediction of events which 
are accessible to sense perception that is all. A profound 
thinker like Weyl forces us to adopt the conclusion that 
the only thing that is behind everything is mind. It is a 
conclusion as old as Berkeley and as new as Weyl. Does 
the mind create space? Does the mind create time? To 
both questions Weyl returns an unhesitating affirmative. 
Does the mind create matter? Here his conclusion is not 
so unhesitating, but he leans to the affirmative view. At 
any rate, mind has put space and time within the frame- 
work of matter. The old jest against Berkeley ran, What 
is matter? Never mind. What is mind? Never matter. 
Nowadays the whole emphasis is shifting to the dominant 
position increasingly being held by mind. We have moved 
so far from the materialistic attitude put forward by John 
Tyndall in his Belfast address that this once famous counter- 
blast is to-day almost wholly unintelligible. 

Clerk-Maxwell in his day was implicitly feeling after views 
like those of Weyl and Boltzmann, and what he used to feel 
implicitly scientists of the rank of Einstein, Eddington, and 
Weyl are feeling explicitly. Professor Eddington suggests 
that the fundamental entities towards which the theory of 
relativity leads us may be " the very stuff of our conscious- 
ness/* Weyl insists towards the close of his magnum opus, 
Raum Zeit Materie that accordingly " it must be em- 
phatically stated that the present state of physics lends no 
support whatever to the belief that there is a casualty of 
physical nature which is founded on rigorously exact laws." 

The nineteenth century lived on the idea of law, the sense 
of continuity, the theory of evolution. And suddenly with 
the discovery of radium combined with the novel doctrines 
of Clerk-Maxwell and Lorentz, Monsieur and Madame 
Curie, Poincare and Minkowski, Niels Bohr and Einstein, 
the very principles and foundations of our scientific world 
crash about our ears. Are there any principles? Does the 
earth move, after all? Is there any ether? What do we 
mean exactly by the conservation of energy? Are all 
mechanical forces merely phases of electro-magnetism? Do 


laws evolve and change like living things? Is it a case 
where there is as well as a living chess-player also living 
chess-pieces ? Do laws advance disconcertingly by leaps and 
bounds and brusque mutations? Is their simplicity a mask 
which we set on the complex anarchy of nature? Is science 
a mere convention, a set in fact of cunningly devised fables? 
Are the laws of science just the rules of the game? Is 
there anything of which we can be sure that it will be true 
in another thousand years ? 

Questions like these can be found in all the fructifying 
essays of Henri Poincare, the genius of France but yester- 
day, and to-day he is with Newton and Kelvin, with Laplace 
and Lagrange. He is not read among us to anything like 
the extent his delightful writings entitle him. His was an 
intelligence as universal as Leonardo da Vinci's. He began 
with mathematics, and only the mathematician can appre- 
ciate his discoveries in mathematical analysis and in differen- 
tial equations. He is the creator of the fonctions fas- 
chiennes which gave a fresh impetus to the non-Euclidean 
conceptions of Boylai, Lobatchweski, and Riemann. Poin- 
care was an inventor in geometry, he was an inventor in 
physics, he was a discoverer in astronomy; and it is not 
amazing to us to find that he occupied, one after another, 
the chairs of these sciences at the Sorbonne. One day the 
Dean exclaimed, " Unfortunately the Faculty possesses no 
Chair of Scientific Philosophy, or we could ask Poincare 
to fill it!" 

What this universal scientific genius discovered, others 
popularised, for he had and deserved to have many 
pupils. Seldom was a master more worthy of the homage 
his students unstintedly rendered to him. In astronomy 
he could write : " Les methodes de Lagrange et de Laplace 
ne sont plus valables que pour quelques siecles et non, 
comme on le croyait, pour des milliers et des milliers d'annees ; 
les fondements sur lesquels s'appuient les astronomes pour 
faire leurs merveilleuses predictions sont, en realite, ruineux." 
Is there a page of his many volumes we could wish that 
there were many more volumes of his essays in which 
there does not appear how " ruineux " is the conception of 
laws eternally true? Is there a page where we do not 
hear of the contingency, the transitoriness, the approxi- 


mateness, the imperfection, without exception, of the laws 
of science? What, then, is there? Is there any such thing 
as absolute truth? Not at all. There are scientific 
hypotheses which sensible men employ because they must, 
despite the Newtonian idea of Non Fingo Hypotheses, em- 
ploy them. Is it very surprising that Boutroux and Bergson 
hived his honey in their nests? Is it startling to meet 
Boutroux teaching us La Contingence des Lois de la 
Nature? Is it surprising to meet Bergson teaching us 
how to grasp L' Evolution Creatice? 

In 1914 Professor A. Aliotta gave us his book on the 
idealistic reaction against science. Throughout his pages 
the influence of Poincare, as well as that of Boutroux and 
Bergson, is plainly traceable. So far indeed has this re- 
action proceeded that instead of the reign of law, we hear 
much more of the total absence of law. Activism and 
Agnosticism (in the scientific sense, a position enough to 
make the body of Huxley turn in its grave), Bergsonianism 
and Voluntaryism, Anglo-American Pragmatism and the 
Primacy of Practical Reason such were some of the forms 
of thought to which the last couple of decades have given 
birth. The swing of the pendulum against reason, in all 
its forms, has come, and come with a vengeance. 

Bubble after bubble like Bergsonianism and all the rest 
of them arose in France and other countries, and the subtle 
brain of Henri Poincare enjoyed himself in pricking them. 
Did Boutroux reproduce his teaching in one form? Did 
Bergson reproduce it in another? Did Brunetiere proclaim 
the bankruptcy of science? Did Le Roy announce that 
it was a means of manipulating matter? Did Le Roy say, 
" Le savant cree le fait " ? Then it was for Poincare to 
show how far the answers to such questions were or were 
not warranted. " The experimenter," he maintained, " does 
not create the fact; he only creates the language in which 
he describes the fact ; Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry, 
for instance, speak different languages but express the same 
truth, as you may translate the same fact into French or 
German. Our formulas are fragmentary, our hypotheses 
approximative and sometimes contradictory. Yet a mind, 
of our own sort and quality, but vaster, could merge their 
variety into a coherent hypothesis. And, from the point 


of view of such a mind, the laws of science would show no 
imperfection, only men of science would appear at different 
moments more or less well informed." 

The volumes of the extremely lucid French which Henri 
Poincare has written are the best place to note all that he 
can tell us in his matchless style of how contingent are all the 
laws of Nature. This matter, however, is so important that 
we spend somewhat more of our space in quoting from a 
clear book that Mr. Bertrand Russell, who has given so much 
thought to scientific method not to speak of other matters 
has given us. In his A B C of Atoms, published less than 
a couple of years ago, we have his views on the transitori- 
ness of the laws of science : 

" It is necessary, however, to utter a word of warning, 
in case readers should accept as a dogmatic ultimate truth 
the atomic structure of the world which we have been 
describing, and which at present seems probable. It should 
not be forgotten that there is another order of ideas, tem- 
porarily out of fashion, which may at any moment come 
back into favour if it is found to afford the best explana- 
tion of the phenomena. The charge on the electron, the 
equal and opposite charge on a hydrogen atom, the mass 
of an electron, the mass of a hydrogen nucleus, and Planck's 
quantum,* all appear to modern physics as absolute con- 
stants, which are just brute facts for which no reason can 
be imagined. The aether, which used to play a great part 
in physics, has sunk into the background, and has become as 
shadowy as Mrs. Harris. It may be found, however, as a 
result of further research, that the aether is after all what 
is really fundamental, and that electrons and hydrogen nuclei 
are merely states of strain in the aether, or something of 
that sort. If so, the two Elements' with which modern 
physics operates may be reduced to one, and the atomic 
character of matter may turn out to be not the ultimate 
truth." f 

* Is it sufficient to say that this quantum is a certain fundamental 
constant h, such that when a body is vibrating ^ times per second the 
energy of this body is, because of this periodic motion, h v or some exact 
multiple of h v? Is it enough to say that, concretely, a billion billion 
times h (taking a billion to mean a million million) is a quantity barely 
appreciable by our senses? 

t B. A. W. Russell, The A B C of Atoms, p. 152. 


In a striking passage Mr. Russell comes to his own con- 
clusions, and it is not difficult to read between the lines of 
what he writes : " But even if the size of an electron should 
ultimately prove ... to be related to the size of the universe, 
that would leave a number of unexplained brute facts, notably 
the quantum itself, which has so far defied all attempts 
to make it seem anything but accidental. It is possible that 
the desire for rational explanation may be carried too far. 
This is suggested by some remarks of Eddington. The 
theory of relativity has shown that most of the traditional 
dynamics, which was supposed to contain scientific laws, 
really consisted of conventions as to measurement, and was 
strictly analogous to the ' great law ' that there are always 
three feet to a yard. In particular, this applies to the 
conservation of energy. This makes it plausible to suppose 
that every apparent law of nature which strikes us as 
reasonable is not really a law of nature, but a concealed 
convention, plastered on to nature by our love of what we, 
in our arrogance, choose to consider rational. Eddington 
hints that a real law of nature is likely to stand out by 
the fact that it appears to be irrational, since in that case 
it is less likely that we have invented it to satisfy our in- 
tellectual taste.* And from this point of view he inclined 
to the belief that the quantum principle is the first real 
law of nature that has been discovered in physics. 

" This raises a somewhat important question : Is the world 
'rational/ i.e. such as to conform to our intellectual habits? 
Or is it ' irrational/ i.e. not such as we should have made 
if we had been in the position of the Creator? I do not 
propose to suggest an answer to this question/' f 

Mysticism has come back to life. The contemptuous atti- 
tude of R. A. Vaughan (1823 1857) * s no longer possible 
to anyone who cares to grasp the whole round of the experi- 
ences of life, and what is true of life is true of science. 
" Mathematics/' writes Mr. Bertrand Russell in his 
Mysticism and Logic, " may be defined as the subject in 
which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether 
what we are saying is true." So Clerk-Maxwell found it, 
and so many of his scientific descendants are finding out. 

* S. Eddington, Space, Time, and Gravitation, p. 200. 
t B. A. W. Russell, The A B C of Atoms, p. 169. 


Words like the following sound like an echo of Boltzmann 
or Brunetiere, of Eddington or Einstein, yet they were 
penned by Clerk-Maxwell long before their day or even 
before the day of Henri Poincare : 

"If, therefore, those cultivators of physical science from 
whom the intelligent public deduce their conception of the 
physicist, and whose style is recognised as marking with a 
scientific stamp the doctrines they promulgate, are led in 
the pursuit of the arcana of science to the study of the 
singularities and instabilities, rather than the continuities 
and stabilities of things, the promotion of natural knowledge 
may tend to remove that prejudice in favour of determinism 
which seems to arise from assuming that the physical science 
of the future is a mere magnified image of that of the past/' 

Unexpectedness has marked the course of science during 
the last two decades. Now here the necessarily dogmatic 
nature of the text-book has gravely tended to confirm the 
limitations of not a few scientific men. The idola of Bacon 
and the Treguierism of Renan have laid their marked im- 
pression on them. How could it in some respects, as we 
reflect on the character of the ordinary text-book, be much 
otherwise? For the author who writes a book of science 
for use in schools and even in colleges writes with an air 
of authority. Any man of thought in any subject, even 
far removed from the domain of science, realises the haze 
that surrounds thought every whit as well as C. J. Vaughan 
(1816 1897) when he set forth the difference between the 
fluid form of Westcott's thought compared with the hard- 
ness of outline presented by that of Lightfoot. .The text- 
book provides one clear-cut explanation that is all. So 
far as the boy or the average undergraduate can tell, this is 
the only explanation. For sheer dogma, commend us to 
the book in the hand of a boy or a young man. How can 
either of them realise that there are other explanations, 
that the one offered to them is but one of them and 
may not even be more than in part correct? In any case, 
it is only a short statement of a highly condensed nature. 

From the text-book turn to any scientific masterpiece, 
say, to Newton's Principia. There we read: 

" But they, that like not this, may suppose light any other 
corporal emanation, or any impulse or motion of any other 


medium or aethereal spirit diffused through the main body 
of aether, or what else they can imagine proper for this 
purpose. To avoid dispute, and make this hypothesis 
general, let every man here take his fancy; only whatever 
light be, I suppose it consists of rays differing from one 
another in contingent circumstance, as bigness, form, or 

In Newton, as in any other genius, there is nothing of 
that cocksure air in the scientific manual that, we feel con- 
vinced, so injures the spread and the advance of scientific 
knowledge. Another object in writing our book will have 
been gained if we can persuade more of the rank and file 
in science, the average lecturer and the like, to peruse not 
merely le dernier cri but also the magnum opus of the 
genius of the past. Many matters were found in Newton's 
Principia by P. G. Tait and Lord Kelvin even after the 
lapse of almost two centuries, and we are certain that there 
are many other matters still hidden in it. We urge, then, 
the perusal of the magnum opus of the past, and we urge 
whole-heartedly the perusal of the biography of the writer 
of the magnum opus. Is there any form of reading more 
likely to dispel that air of certainty which in our day inflicts 
so much injury on science? A reading of memoirs is sure 
to lead one to see more in old conceptions than one has 
imagined, and in many an instance to be set on the track of 
an idea long hidden from the ken of men. 

The perusal of biographies is our own favourite amuse- 
ment, but of course it is more than this. No one can read 
hundreds of biographies without reflecting on the nature 
of the scientific man. The illusion that he is a being 
actuated by pure reason has long been shed, partly because 
he is found by his controversies to own a heart as well as 
a head ; partly because by his heart, moving on the lines of 
Pascal he has arrived at discoveries; and partly because he 
is at bottom an artist. Truth is as many-sided as man's 
nature, and it takes the whole of his nature to grasp it. 
It is not for nothing that Leonardo da Vinci was so many 
professions in turn. So he enlarged his experience of the 
tout ensemble of existence, and therefore he made his endless 
discoveries in widely-differing branches of knowledge. He 
was a great military engineer, he was a great civil engineer, 


he was a discoverer in many fields of knowledge, and he 
was a great artist. True, he never attained the assured 
craftsmanship of Titian or Paul Veronese, the free facility 
of Velasquez or the amazing audacity of Rubens. Still, 
he painted pictures that the world will not willingly forget. 
Leonardo da Vinci has left many a descendant among men 
of science in their artistic temperament. The artist pos- 
sesses intuition as well as reason, and we are inclined to 
think that many of the past controversies arose because of 
this very matter. The intuition of one investigator com- 
bined with his set of presupposition led him to regard 
truth so exclusively from his own angle that he could not 
allow for the circumstance that another investigator was 
regarding it every whit as exclusively from his own angle. 
If we assume that in science there is no such thing as in- 
tuition, no such thing as the artistic temperament, and if 
we also assume that men are guided entirely by pure 
reason, then we utterly fail to understand the scientific 
quarrels we have chronicled. On the other hand, if we 
assume that in science there is intuition, there is such a 
tiling as the artistic temperament, and if we also assume 
that men are not entirely guided by pure reason, then we 
understand these scientific quarrels. Men of science have 
been led, and are being led, along certain lines of research 
by a feeling of intuitive probability.* For intuition, like 
conscience, stands in need of guidance. Lotze gave in- 
tuition a place in thought to which it had been a stranger, 
but, like all who did a piece of pioneer work, he claimed 
far too much for intuition. Feeling f and intuition have, 
all the same, their due place, even though it is a subordinate 
one, in the discovery of all truth in general and of scientific 
truth in particular. 

Science is poetry in the profoundest sense of the term. 
It is, of course, not true, save in a case like Tennyson's, 
that poetry is science. " The wind bloweth where it listeth, 
and thou canst not tell whence it cometh nor whither it 
goeth." So spoke Jesus Christ of old, and as we peruse 
the history of scientific discovery we realise afresh 

* Lord Balfour expounds this admirably in his Gifford Lectures. 
t The dedication of J. H. Muirhead's The Service of the State is 
to " M. T. M., who taught me to feel what Green taught me to think." 


the truth of this saying. There are such surprises as 
a Newton from a Lincolnshire farm or a Tennyson from 
a Lincolnshire rectory or a Kelvin from the heart of busy 
Belfast. The greatest personalities in science have not 
obviously been the product of their environment. Nor is 
it a whit more true of literature or war or statesmanship. 
Literature has its surprise in a Shakespeare from Stratford- 
on-Avon, war its surprise in a Napoleon from Ajaccio, and 
statesmanship its surprise in a Lincoln from the backwoods 
of America. Environment, no doubt, in skilful hands will 
explain much, but will it explain the origin of a Newton 
and a Kelvin, of a Shakespeare and a Tennyson, of a 
Napoleon and a Lincoln? 

A Kelvin, a Weismann, an Einstein, care passionately 
for music, a Hooker and a Cayley care passionately for 
art, thereby revealing the affinity of the scientist with the 
artist. Such men can say with Landor : 

Nature I loved, and, after Nature, Art; 

I warmed both hands before the fire of life; 
It sinks and I am ready to depart. 

Nor do we wonder at such love of music when we remember 
that Leibniz held that " music is the pleasure the human 
soul experiences from counting without being aware that 
it is counting." We recall that music and mathe- 
matics originated together in the discovery of Pytha- 
goras. The connection between the two dates back 
to classical times, and in our own day Spengler exerts him- 
self to trace the connection over again, holding that the 
development of music throughout its various stages in our 
European culture has been intimately related with the stages 
of the development of mathematics.* Thought for the 
ordinary mortal requires complete consciousness. Thought 
for the extraordinary mortal does not require it. The 
artistic temperament can carry on a process of thought for 
a long period with almost complete unconsciousness. Wagner 
describes, for instance, how after a sleepless night followed 
by a dull walk : " I stretched myself dead tired on a hard 
couch awaiting the long-desired hour of sleep. It did not 
come; but I fell into a kind of somnolent state in which I 

* Dcr Untergang dcs Abendlandes, I, p. 576. 


suddenly felt as though I were sinking in swiftly flowing 
water. The rushing sound formed itself in my brain into 
a musical sound, the chord of E flat major, which continually 
re-echoed in broken forms; these broken chords seemed 
to be melodic passages of increasing motion, yet the pure 
triad of E flat major never changed, but seemed by its 
continuance to impart infinite significance to the element 
in which I was sinking. I awoke in sudden terror from my 
doze, feeling as though the waves were rushing high above 
my head. I at once recognised that the orchestral over- 
ture to the Rheingoldj which must long have lain latent 
within me, though I had been unable to find definite form, 
had at last been revealed to me." * 

What happened to Wagner in music happened to Poin- 
care in mathematics. He had been working for a consider- 
able time at a complicated problem about Fuschian functions. 
" One night/' he confesses, " I took some black coffee, 
contrary to my custom, and was unable to sleep. A host of 
ideas kept surging in my head; I could almost feel them 
jostling one another, until two of them coalesced, so to 
speak, to form a stable combination. When morning came, 
I had established the existence of one class of Fuschian 
functions, those that are derived from the hyper-geometric 
series. . . ." f : 

The next step was when he endeavoured to represent these 
functions by the quotient of two series. Consciously he 
thought this out, and then he had to leave his home at Caen 
in order to take part in a geological conference arranged 
by the School of Mines. The incidents of the journey drove 
his mathematical work out of his brain. " When we arrived 
at Coutances, we got into a brake to go for a drive, and, 
just as I put my foot on the step, the idea came to me, 
though nothing in my former thoughts seemed to have 
prepared me for it, that the transformations I had used 
to define Fuschian functions were identical with non- 
Euclidean geometry/' $ A set-back for some days occurred, 
and he set out for the seaside, turning his attention com- 
pletely away from his unsatisfactory mathematics. " One 

* My Life, II, p. 603. 

t H. Poincare, Science and Method, p. 53. 

t Ibid., p. S3- 


day, as I was walking on the cliff, the idea came to me, 
again with the same characteristics of conciseness, sudden- 
ness, and immediate certainty, that arithmetical transforma- 
tions of indefinite ternary quadratic forms are identical with 
those of non-Euclidean geometry/' * 

On his return to Caen, Poincare reflected on his result 
which carried him a stage further. The example of quad- 
ratic forms demonstrated to him that there are Fuschian 
groups other than those which correspond with the hyper- 
geometric series. Could he apply to them the theory of 
the Theta-Fuschian series? He saw he could. Could he 
then deduce that there are Fuschian functions other than 
those derived from the hyper-geometric series? He also 
saw he could. Then came the crucial step of forming all 
these functions?. Systematically he set to work on the 
problem, and solved the whole of it save one part. This 
he could not bring in, and it defied all his conscious efforts. 
Leaving Caen in order to serve as a conscript, he naturally 
had his mind preoccupied with drill and the duties of the 
barrack-room. " One day, as I was crossing the street, 
the solution of the difficulty which had brought me to a 
standstill came to me all at once. I did not try to fathom 
it immediately, and it was only after my service was 
finished that I returned to the question. I had all the 
elements, and had only to assemble and arrange them. 
Accordingly I composed my definitive treatise at a sitting 
and without difficulty." f Someone $ has laid down that 
the coming upon the natural scene of the musician's soul 
reveals a new range of meaning and beauty which before 
were dormant in the physical structure of the natural world; 
and reality as a whole assumes through him a new way 
of being. Such was essentially the nature of the experience 
of Henri Poincare. 

That the experience of Poincare is by no means unique, 
the lives of Sir William Rowan Hamilton and of Kekule 
attest. The former tells us that " quaternions started into life, 
or light, full grown, on Monday, October 16, 1843, as I was 
walking with Lady Hamilton to Dublin, and came up to the 

* H. Poincare, Science and Method, p. 54- 
t Ibid., p. 55. 

J I cannot trace the source of this. When the Sinn Feiners stole 
my books and manuscript, they also stole all my note-books. 


Brougham Bridge, which my boys have since called the 
Quaternion Bridge. That is to say, I then and there felt 
the galvanic circuit of thought close, and the sparks which 
fell from it were the fundamental equations between i, j, k; 
exactly such as I have used them ever since. I pulled out 
on the spot a pocket-book, which still exists, and made an 
entry on which, at the very moment, I felt that it might 
be worth my while to expend the labour of at least ten 
(or it might be fifteen) years to come. But then it is fair 
to say that this was because I felt a problem to have been 
at that moment solved an intellectual want relieved which 
had haunted me for at least fifteen years before. Less than 
an hour elapsed before I had asked and obtained leave of 
the Council of the Royal Irish Academy of which Society 
I was, at that time, the President to read at the next General 
Meeting a Paper on Quaternions ; which I accordingly did, on 
November 13, 1843." 

The German chemist Kekule informs us of how he came 
in 1865 to hit upon the ring formula for the benzene mole- 
cule. When twenty-eight he was living in London, and used 
to discuss chemistry with a friend. He says : " One fine 
summer evening I was returning by the last omnibus, out- 
side as usual, through the deserted streets of the metropolis, 
which are at other times so full of life. I fell into a 
reverie, and lo, the atoms were dancing before my eyes. 
Whenever, hitherto, these diminutive creatures had appeared 
to me, they had always been in motion, but up to that time 
I had never been able to discern the nature of their motion. 
Now, however, I saw how, frequently, two smaller atoms 
united to form a pair; how a larger one embraced the two 
smaller ones; how still larger ones kept hold of three or 
even four of the smaller; whilst the whole kept whirling 
in a giddy dance. I saw how the larger ones formed a 
chain, dragging the smaller ones after them but only at 
the ends of the chain. I saw what our past master, Kopp, 
my highly honoured teacher and friend, has depicted with 
such charm in his Molecular-Welt] but I saw it long 
before him. The cry of the conductor, ' Clapham Road/ 
awakened me from my dreaming, but I spent a part of the 
night in putting on paper at least sketches of these dream 
forms. This was the origin of the structure theory/' 


This provided him with the conception of the chain for- 
mula for the ordinary hydrocarbons of the paraffin series, 
but benzene still remained a mystery till he had another fit 
of inspiration. " I was sitting/' we read, " writing at my 
text-book, but the work did not progress. My thoughts 
were elsewhere. I turned my chair to the fire and dozed. 
This time the atoms were gambolling before my eyes. My 
mental eye, rendered more acute by repeated visions of 
this kind, could now distinguish larger structures of manifold 
conformation, long rows, sometimes closely fitted together, 
all twining and twisting in snake-like motion. But look! 
What was that? One of the snakes had seized hold of its 
own tail and the form whirled mockingly before my eyes. 
As if by a flash of lightning I awoke, and this time also 
I spent the rest of the night in working out the consequences 
of the hypothesis/' Such is the account Kekule gave 
in 1890 when men celebrated the anniversary of this 

If the scientist is not attracted by music, he may be by 
architecture, which is the art Goethe called " frozen music/' 
The laws of statics and dynamics are at work in the structure 
of the building. If the building is worthy of the name of 
architecture, the laws of statics and dynamics are translated 
into a thing of beauty which is a joy for ever. If neither 
music nor architecture exercises magnetic force over him, 
painting may. If none of these three can weave its spells, 
literature may succeed where it fails?. Here of course 
biographies ought to help us, but very often they do not 
reveal a single artistic taste of the subject. It does not 
follow from this omission that the scientist has had no such 
tastes, for it sometimes means that the biographer has a false 
impression of the dignity of his labour, deeming such matters 
as love of music or of architecture as beneath his notice. 
There is no adequate life of Newton, and what Sir David 
Brewster has done for us is to depict the mathematician 
and to leave the man to the one side. We may be sure that 
Newton, different in most matters from ourselves, was com- 
posed of the familiar flesh and blood. We want new 
biographies of Newton and Clerk-Maxwell, drawing the men 
and setting their results against the background of the newer 
knowledge gained since their time. We also require an 


elaborate biography of Henri Poincare, taking account of 
the man as well as of his philosophy. The men who write 
these biographies must be of imagination all compact, as 
Sir William Osier has put it. For scientific subjects are by 
no means aliens in the land of imagination. Our work-a- 
day world is bounded by the three dimensions of the space 
in which we live and move. The mathematician like Weyl 
or Einstein has long transcended these three dimensions, 
forming a conception of space of 4 or 5 or n dimensions. 
A Sir J. J. Thomson or a Sir Ernest Rutherford, engaged 
on the mass of an electron or the mass of a hydrogen 
nucleus, piercing the secrets of the smallest entities, brooding 
over the dance of vortices imagined by a Kelvin, with his 
magic wand summons elemental forces to reveal the nature 
of their powers to his scientific gaze. From one aspect we 
behold the disciplined brain of the man of science. From 
another aspect we behold the imaginative inspiration of the 
poet. Newton's transition from a falling apple to a falling 
moon was, at the outset, a leap of the imagination. 

Instead of the processes of mathematics being the most 
inhuman, they are, rightly regarded, the most human. For 
if the brain of the scientist is present, the inspiration of the 
poet must also be present if any great discovery is to be 
revealed to the sight of mankind. " The mathematician's 
best work is art," holds Mittag-Leffier, " a high and perfect 
art, as daring as the most secret dreams of the imagination, 
clear and limpid. Mathematical genius and artistic genius 
touch each other. " In a past generation James Joseph 
Sylvester (1814 1897) was deemed one of the greatest 
mathematicians of his day, taking rank with his friend Cay- 
ley. We learn that he was wont to write in language 
enriched with poetical imagination, and by illustrations 
drawn from themes far afield from pure science. Men re- 
proached him for so doing. But he could proudly point to 
the fact that he not only made mathematics but he also made 
mathematicians who were attracted by his graphic methods. 
He had a genuine love of literature and cared intensely 
for the structure of English verse, publishing in 1870 The 
Laws of Verse, an attempt to illustrate from his own verses 
and those of others the principles of what he called phonetic 
syzygy. His own verses show ingenuity and invention, and 



there is the authentic note of true poetry in his translations 
from German. As an undergraduate member of St. John's 
College, Cambridge, he cared for music as fervently as 
Kelvin or Helmholtz or Einstein. Indeed he had taken 
lessons in singing from Gounod. It is intelligible, therefore, 
that in his Theory of Reciprocals Sylvester should ask, 
" Does it not seem as if Algebra had attained to the dignity 
of a fine art, in which the workman has a free hand to 
develop his conceptions, as in a musical theme or a subject 
for painting? It has reached a point in which every 
properly-developed algebraical composition, like a skilful 
landscape, is expected to suggest the notion of an infinite 
distance lying beyond the limits of the canvas." Nor is 
he singular in his opinion. " Mathematics," maintains Mr. 
Bertrand Russell in our generation, " possesses not only 
truth, but supreme beauty a beauty cold and austere, like 
that of sculpture. The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, 
the sense of being more than man, which is the touchstone 
of the highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as 
surely as in poetry." Sir Christopher Wren may have built 
St. Paul's Cathedral out of stone, but we can say of him 
that " he was really an artist using the stuff of science as his 
material." The same remark applies to every scientist 
worthy of his high calling. " There is no such thing as 
an unimaginative scientific man," we have heard G. F. Fitz- 
Gerald declare. He was in this matter wildly astray. 
There are indeed unimaginative scientific men. As an 
undergraduate in two universities we heard them lecture, 
and since graduation we every now and then meet 

Arthur Cayley (1821 1895) ranks with the greatest of 
mathematicians. Nor were painting and architecture aloof 
from him. The works of such painters as Masaccio, Gio- 
vanni Bellini, Perugino, and Luini proved a special source 
of delight to him. Architecture attracted him as much as 
painting. With all this range of knowledge, he was a mathe- 
matician of as catholic tastes as Euler himself. Singularly 
learned in the labour of other men, he owned a width in his 
range of reading that was enviable. Clerk-Maxwell * 
wrote lines based on a profound admiration of Cayley. 

* His Life, p. 636. 


O wretched race of men, to space confined! 

What honour can ye pay to him, whose mind 

To that which lies beyond hath penetrated? 

The symbols he hath formed shall sound his praise, 

And lead him on through unimagined ways 

To conquests new, in worlds not yet created. 

First, ye Determinants I in ordered row 
And massive column ranged, before him go, 
To form a phalanx for his safe protection. 
Ye powers of the nth roots of minus one! 
Around his head in ceaseless cycles run, 
As unembodied spirits of direction. 

And you, ye undevelopable scrolls! 

Above the host wave your emblazoned rolls, 

Ruled for the record of his bright inventions. 

Ye cubic surfaces! by threes and nines 

Draw round his camp your seven-and-twenty lines 

The seal of Solomon in three dimensions. 

March on, symbolic host! with step sublime, 
Up to the flaming bounds of Space and Time! 
There pause, until by Dickinson * depicted, 
In two dimensions, we the form may trace 
Of him whose soul, too large for vulgar space, 
In " n " dimensions flourished unrestricted. 

Cayley's favourite authors were Sir Walter Scott and 
Jane Austen. Guy Mannering and The Heart of Mid- 
lothian among Scott's, and Persuasion among Jane Austen's, 
were the books he liked best. He was fond of George 
Eliot's novels, particularly of Romola. Ian Maclaren's 
Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush met with words of warm 
praise. On the other hand, he did not like Thackeray, and 
would not read Dickens. He had a keen liking for many 
of Shakespeare's plays, notably Much Ado about Nothing, 
and some of the historical dramas. He liked Milton's 
shorter poems as much as he disliked Paradise Lost. Did 
this dislike spring from a subconscious feeling of all the 
harm Milton inflicted upon both science and religion by his 
special creation theory? Scott's poems Cay ley often read, 
and he displayed a lively appreciation of Coleridge's Ancient 
Mariner. A good linguist, he read French, German, Italian, 
and Greek, entertaining profound regard for Plato. Grote's 
History of Greece and Macaulay's History of England were 
favourites, and he never seemed to tire of Lockhart's Life 
of Scott. 

* Lowes Dickinson painted his portrait. 


In our day Einstein brings to whatever he deals with a 
breadth of outlook, a wide generality of conception, that 
remind us of Cayley and Poincare. The piano to Einstein 
forms, to use his own words, " a necessity of life." He is 
a good violinist, an accomplished musician. His face, we 
learn, is illumined when he listens to music. His favourites 
are Bach, Haydn, and Mozart. He likes much less 
Beethoven and Wagner, while to such romantics of music as 
Chopin and Schumann he is as frankly indifferent as he is 
to painting. Architecture and literature both attract him. 
While not attracted by Ibsen, he is warmly attracted by 
Cervantes, Keller, and Strindberg. Goethe he reads, but 
Shakespeare he adores. Above all, he admires Dostoevsky, 
notably his masterpiece, The Brothers Karamazov. Ein- 
stein confesses that " Dostoevsky gives me more than any 
scientist, more than Gauss." All literary analysis or aesthetic 
subtlety, it seems to Einstein, fails to penetrate to the heart 
of a work like The Brothers Karamazov: it can only be 
grasped by the feelings. His face lights up when he speaks 
of it, and he can find no word for it but " ethical satis- 
faction." Men say that the keynote of this thinker's emo- 
tional existence is the cry of Sophocles's Antigone : " I am 
not here to hate with you, but to love with you." 

Insight combined with intuitive probability marks the 
labours of Blaise Pascal. Walter Pater thus depicts his 
powers : " Hidden under the apparent exactions of his 
favourite studies, imagination even in them played a large 
part. Physics, mathematics, were with him largely matters 
of intuition, anticipation, precocious discovery, short cuts, 
superb guessing. It was the inventive element in his work, 
and his way of painting things that surprised most of those 
most able to judge. He might have discovered the mathe- 
matical sciences for himself, it is alleged, had his father, 
as he once had a mind to, withheld him from instruction in 
them." At the end of his days Rousseau realised that the 
great labour of his life, which had been to express intuitive 
certainty in words which would carry intellectual conviction, 
had been in vain, and his last words were : " It is true as soon 
as it is felt." 

Helmholtz was as well aware as Tyndall of the large share 
taken by intuitive probability in the striking results of Fara- 


day. He guessed by hypothesis, but he was always careful 
to subject his hypothesis to the test of experiment. He 
provided himself with a guess in order to guide him in 
the laboratory. The series of experiments suggest that 
this guess will not cover the results at which he has arrived. 
Very well, then. The next step is to form another hypo- 
thesis more adapted to cover all the fresh facts. Theoretic 
divination formed the prelude to all his experiments, but 
he never for a single second hesitated to throw away any 
preconceived notion the moment facts stood in its way. 

Last year was the centenary of the birth of Lord Kelvin, 
and accordingly the anniversary was honoured by speeches 
testifying to the nature of his labours. By a striking co- 
incidence in the speeches of Lord Balfour at the centenary 
banquet and Sir J. J. Thomson at the Institute of Civil 
Engineers, stress was laid on Lord Kelvin's intuitive quali- 
ties. " What was characteristic of Kelvin above all others/' 
observed Lord Balfour, " with the exception of Archimedes, 
was that he almost instinctively applied the knowledge which 
the study of natural laws gave him to the needs and happiness 
of mankind." Sir J. J. Thomson observed, " To the intui- 
tion of the engineer Kelvin allied the genius of the mathe- 
matician, and he could so apply mathematics to the solution 
of physical problems that he justified Bacon's statement that 
' research begins with physics and ends with mathematics.' " 
Kelvin's friend Rayleigh informed John Aitken in 1917: 
" I recommend you not to be too modest ! a good instinct 
and a little mathematics is often better than a lot of calcu- 

In theoretical investigations intuitive probability has suc- 
ceeded beyond all expectation, and in practical ones it has 
similarly succeeded. This was proved during the World 
War, when, for example, Lord Moulton was diverted from 
his duties as a judge in order to attend to the production 
of nitrogen and other matters indispensable for our success. 
Before he had been elevated to the bench, he had had a large 
practice in patent-cases. There he used to say that his first 
impression of the validity of a disputed patent was in all 
probability the right one. Men might argue him out of his 
impression, but the verdict generally confirmed what he 
had thought at first. He entertained a lively sense of what 


he termed " back-of-the-brain " working. His scientific 
knowledge was wide, and it was backed by a real scientific 
instinct. Whether a new scientific suggestion was practic- 
able or impracticable, he divined. We give an example. 
During the war the question of our devoting our energies 
to the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen arose. It was per- 
fectly possible, and Moulton knew that it was actually being 
tried in Germany. Of course were he successful, here was 
a source of nitrogen which neither foreign interference nor 
U-boats could affect. He divined that with the limited 
stores of goods and labour available, the plan would very 
likely not prove of any benefit to us before the end of 1918. 
He accordingly rejected the project of the fixation of atmo- 
spheric nitrogen. As a matter of fact, experiments con- 
ducted since the signing of the Peace of Versailles demon- 
strate the correctness of his decision.* This peculiar power 
of feeling for new truths is a prime requisite for an original 
investigator: it is the Forscherblick quality of genius. 

The scientist shares many of the artistic gifts in no 
scanty degree if he is conducting researches of the highest 
class. Such gifts, by their very nature, lead occasionally 
to misunderstanding that sometimes develops into bitter con- 
troversies. Of Max Planck, the deviser of the quantum 
theory, Einstein entertains a warm admiration, saying of 
him that " the emotional condition which fits him for his 
task is akin to that of a devotee or a lover. " The quarrels 
of lovers in the past have not invariably led to the renewing 
of love. But what if the scientists recognise that they are 
artists swayed by the artistic temperament? Such a recog- 
nition may lead them to make more allowances for those 
who differ from them. At a celebration given in honour of 
Planck in 1918 Einstein gave a glowing picture of the 
ideal physicist. " I agree with Schopenhauer/' he said, 
" that one of the most powerful motives that attract people 
to science and art is the longing to escape from everyday life 
with its coarseness and desolating barrenness, and to break 
the fetters of their ever-changing desires. It impels 
those of keener sensibility out of their personal existence 
into the world of objective perception and understanding. 
It is a motive force of like kind to that which drives the 
* H. F. Moulton, Life of Lord Moulton, pp. 49, 205. 


dweller in noisy, confused cities to restful Alpine heights 
whence he seems to have an outlook on eternity. Associated 
with this negative motive is the positive motive which impels 
men to seek a simplified synoptic view of the world conform- 
able to their own nature, overcoming the world by replacing 
it with this picture. The painter, the poet, the philosopher, 
the scientist, all do this, each in his own way/' Each of 
them can attain towards this goal if the idola of Bacon and 
the Treguierism of Renan do not interpose obstacles. 

The man of science lives in relation to a world infinitely 
greater than ourselves, offering a spectacle perpetually re- 
newed, incomparably vast, and behind the splendid harmony 
of natural laws he derives something vaster, brighter still. 
Such a vision will enable him to forget the prepossessions 
that have blinded him in the past. For our chapters contain 
record after record of his errors of omission and of com- 
mission. Long ago Hegel pointed out that tragedy is not the 
conflict between right and wrong, but the conflict between 
right and right. When we regard the scientist as an artist, 
this renders the causes of conflict all the more intelligible. 
The vision of all we might be and the contrast of how much 
we have fallen short of this vision in the annals of the 
nineteenth century are enough to make us yearn to get 
rid of the idols that block the path. The man of science 
has learnt the beauty of exactness, the horror of tampering 
with the result, and the difficulty in the interpretation of it. 
Knowledge in general and science in particular render us 
yet another service. In her fields, in her courts, no one of us 
labours alone. To her monuments each of us can bring 
but a stone, nor hope to add more than a fragment. The 
man of science works for humanity, and we all love that for 
which we labour and offer ourselves up in daily sacrifice. 
He will respond to the sense of solidarity. As he responds 
to this sense, the feeling of awe and wonder steals over him. 
Truth is his quest. Truth is the quest of other scientists. 
They and he are co-workers in the creative process which 
eternally proceeds. They all realise that love of truth, that 
care in its pursuit, and that humility of mind which make 
the possibility of error always present. Where is there place 
for cocksureness of attitude, for infallibility in pronounce- 
ment? Where is there room for that dreadful trinity, 


envy, hatred, and malice, when all ought to have rid them- 
selves of the idola of Bacon and the Treguierism of Renan? 
As the feeling of awe and wonder steals over the scientist, 
and as he rids himself of his prepossessions, the sense of 
strife dies away, to be replaced by the sense of the services of 
other labourers in the same field. 
Tennyson sings : 

Let knowledge grow from more to more, 
But more of reverence in us dwell, 
That mind and soul, according well, 
May make one music as before 
But vaster. 

And to this prayer with all my heart and head, I say, 
" Amen/ 1 


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